Nigerians Parents Fear for Students Studying Abroad

January 7, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

New America Media, Commentary, Olugu Ukpai

My dear God, has it now become a crime to be a Nigerian? The headlines tell me so over and over again. Mutallab: Man Who Shamed Nigeria. Mutallab: The Nigerian Agent of Al Qaeda. The Boy Who Blew Nigeria’s Image.

Umar Faruq Abdulmutallab’s failed attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner has just landed Nigeria, my country of birth, on the list of 14 nations whose nationals are going to be singled out for special checks if they want to fly to the United States. Nigeria has become a uniquely insecure travel terrorism hub, they say.

But Abdulmutallab never studied in Nigeria. He did not have “terror connections” in Nigeria. Instead his initiation into terror clubs happened abroad in the countries where he was sent to study to become a better person.

Abdulmutallab went to a British high school in Togo. He studied in Dubai, Yemen and Egypt. Above all, he studied mechanical engineering at University College, London, one of the oldest in England. It makes me wonder how Nigerian parents who have sent their children to study abroad, and those children studying abroad, are looking at the story of “the boy who blew Nigeria’s image.”

I, too like Abdulmutallab, am a Nigerian student studying in the United Kingdom. I can understand the concerns of Nigerian parents like mine who sent their children abroad in hopes for a better education – a Western style education. Now there is a deep concern among the same parents, especially those at home who are skeptical of the kind of “cults” their children are being exposed to abroad in the name of acquiring “the white man’s” education. A study by the University of Notre Dame in 2009 found that parents tended to know only 10 percent of what their children were doing abroad.

Foreign education is no longer a safe haven. On the other hand fearful parents cannot bring their children back home either. After all, American media reports paint Nigeria as a hotbed of Al Qaeda terror. When I come back to the U.K. after Christmas break I do not know what will befall me. Will I be treated as a terror suspect because I am Nigerian? Will the U.K. government just wash its hands off me while it pockets my high tuition?

Nigerian parents and students worry whether the U.K. government is living up to its promises to protect the students in its charge. Has it allowed terrorist groups to penetrate its universities so that unsuspecting students can fall prey to their wiles? Already there is a systemic breakdown of security in U.K. institutions of higher learning. A King’s College, London report says more and more women are reporting rapes. Nigerian parents worry about their children abroad.

Instead of demonizing Nigeria, the international press and the world at large should be honoring and celebrating the alleged terror suspect’s 70-year-old father, who set aside blood bonds to report his son’s newfound religious extremism to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria. I contend that he deserves a Global Citizen Award, and Nigeria should honor him with a National Merit Award. He is an exemplary Nigerian whose act of integrity should be rewarded and recognized. This might help fight terrorism by encouraging others who might have similar useful information.

Instead of ganging up on Nigeria, world powers would do well to review security policies to better protect the lives of international students. Our parents sell their pound of flesh to provide a brighter future for us. No parent would ever dream their “well-behaved and humble” child — as many have described Abdulmutallab — would turn into a terrorist and end up in Guantanamo Bay, all in the name of acquiring the “white man’s” education.

Olugu Ukpai is a Ph.D student at School of Law at the University of Reading, U.K. He can be reached at oluukpaiolu@yahoo.com.

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US Prepares to Face UN on Torture as Amnesty Report Blasts ‘War Crimes’

May 4, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

U.S. Prepares to Face U.N. on Torture as Amnesty Report blasts ‘War Crimes’

Courtesy Raw Story

As the US prepares a team of 30 to defend its record on torture before a U.N. committee, Amnesty International has made public a report blasting the US for failing to take appropriate steps to eradicate the use of torture at U.S. detention sites around the world.
US compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment will be the topic of May 5 and 8 U.N. hearings in Geneva.
The United States last appeared before the Committee Against Torture in May, 2000. Amnesty claims that practices criticized by the Committee six years ago — such as the use of electro-shock weapons and excessively harsh conditions in “super-maximum” security prisons — have been used and exported by U.S. forces abroad.

The Amnesty Report reviews several cases where U.S. detainees held in Afghanistan and Iraq have died as a result of torture. The group also lambastes U.S. use of electro-shock weapons, inhuman and degrading conditions of isolation in “super-max” security prisons and abuses against women in the prison system — including sexual abuse by male guards, shackling while pregnant and even in labor.

As of now, the U.S. has yet to prosecute a single official, military officer or private contractor for “torture” or “war crimes” related to its occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, or the “war on terror.”

“The heaviest sentence imposed on anyone to date for a torture-related death while in U.S. custody is five months,” notes Curt Goering, Senior Deputy Executive Director for Amnesty International USA. “[That’s] the same sentence that you might receive in the U.S. for stealing a bicycle.”

The five month sentence resulted from the death of a 22-year-old taxi-driver, who had been hooded and chained to a ceiling, then kicked and beaten until dead.
“The U.S. government is not only failing to take steps to eradicate torture,” he adds, “it is actually creating a climate in which torture and other ill-treatment can flourish — including by trying to narrow the definition of torture.”

The report argues that these cases are not isolated incidents, but part of an overall pattern condoned by U.S. officials.

“While the government continues to try to claim that the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody was mainly due to a few ‘aberrant’ soldiers, there is clear evidence to the contrary,” said Javier Zuniga, Amnesty International’s Americas Program Director. “Most of the torture and ill-treatment stemmed directly from officially sanctioned procedures and policies — including interrogation techniques approved by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.”
Amnesty’s findings have already been sent to members of the UN Committee Against Torture.
At its May 1-19 session, the Committee Against Torture will consider reports presented by Georgia, Guatemala, Republic of Korea, Qatar, Peru, Togo and the United States. With the exceptions of Korea and Peru, Amnesty has also provided reports about the actions of these nations. -