Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-Chief
Last Modified: 15:20 PM EDT, 4 May 2012
POTISKUM, Nigeria – Potiskum is a city 575 kilometers (350 miles) northeast of Nigeria’s central capital, Abuja. It is located in Yobe state which is the epicenter of the radical Islamic group, Boko Haram‘s reign of terror.
The group has perpetrated over 480 killings since the beginning of the year as they seek to bring Northern Nigeria and then the rest of the country under Sharia law.
Sharia law is one of the harshest interpretations of the Quran and results in the brutalization of many people for crimes which would be considered misdemeanors in the West.
When I was a child living in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I can vividly recall when a young boy was nearly beaten to death for stealing some oranges and silverware from one of the homes in the neighborhood.
We lived on the university campus in an affluent neighborhood, and one day as I was returning home from school I approached an angry mob of people kicking and hitting a young boy who was screaming for mercy. I was so frightened, I ran home to get my mother who along with my uncle called the police and then returned with me to the scene.
The violence had escalated during my brief absence, but I was relieved when the police arrived. What happened next has remained with me nearly forty years later. The policemen asked the assembled crowd which included the housekeepers, cooks, and gardeners of our neighbors, what had occurred.
Some people shouted in Swahili, others in broken English, explaining that the young boy had stolen some oranges and silverware from one of the houses. On the ground before the accused thief lay the silverware lay scattered about and some oranges.
As a child, the only thing I focused on were the oranges and I thought that he must have been terribly hungry to have stolen them. After the crowd explained the situation, I was shocked and appalled to see one of the policeman reach to his belt. He first removed some handcuffs which he put on the young boy and I thought that was the end of it.
But to my shock and dismay, the policeman then removed his belt and began to beat the boy mercilessly. I screamed, cried and pleaded for them to stop as the boy fell to the ground and curled up in a fetal position to protect his body. The belt buckle cut open one of his eyes just as my uncle tried unsuccessfully to intervene and calm the situation.