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‘They Slept With Us, Mistreated Us, Beat Us, And Shot People’, Recalls Nigerian Trafficking Survivor in a Chilling Account
Martinsicuro, Abruzzo, Italy, August 9, 2017: The thick-set 23-year-old Nigerian woman exudes strength, keen to overcome what she suffered in Libya and Italy before she escaped from the shadows in Rome and jumped on a train heading for Ancona on Italy’s Adriatic coast.
Not that she knew the train’s destination before boarding — she just wanted to flee her tormentors, run from beatings and sexual abuse. But it will take longer than a three-and-half-hour railway trip to forget the torments of the past.
Anna (the name she chose to protect her identity for security reasons) is one of more than 16,000 young Nigerian women — including many underage girls — who’ve been trafficked into Italy by Nigerian crime syndicates over the past two years, joining thousands of Nigerians who now make up nearly half of the street prostitutes working in Italy.
Many outreach workers suspect that most of the Nigerian girls, especially the more recent arrivals — although not all — knew before leaving Nigeria that their traffickers would put them to work as prostitutes. Many may have been sex workers before in Nigeria, something charity workers say shouldn’t matter when it comes to helping the women, arguing they are all abused and in need of compassion and help.
Either way, the trafficked women, they say, didn’t know how grueling their work would be in Italy, how appalling their living conditions, how poorly paid they would be and how long it would take them to pay off debts to traffickers, who charge the women upwards of $41,000 (35,000 euros) for the journey.
But staff at On the Road, an Italian charity that helps women break from sex work, say they don’t believe Anna was one of those who knew what she would be doing in Italy. They say she was duped.
Eight months after her escape from her “madame” Anna described her journey north from Nigeria’s Benin City through Niger and Libya. She is now living with nearly a dozen trafficked Nigerian girls in a shelter, going to school and learning Italian.
Anna said she was raped repeatedly for almost two months just outside the Libyan town of Bani Walid. There she witnessed young migrant women and boys shot because they resisted the sexual demands of their Libyan captors.
She said she couldn’t give a precise number of those murdered but added, sadly, “Too many, too many.”
She made the journey to Italy because her uncle told her to go. After her parents died when she was 14-years-old, she and her three siblings — a brother and two sisters — lived with their uncle.
“He was not really taking care of us in the way he should. He is a drunkard and had no job. So we could barely afford a square meal a day. He always say we should leave his house,” she explained.
She did go to high school and was learning how to sew before she set off for Italy.
“One day my uncle came and said there was a woman who had a business here in Italy that needed someone to work with her. So he said I would go with the woman and work with her in Italy. So I had no choice.”
She never met the mysterious business woman, who she was told owned a supermarket, but did meet a woman who claimed to be the woman’s sister, who told Anna she would owe more than $47,000 (40,000 euros) for the journey and would have to pay it off.
Juju oath for debt repayment
Like thousands of other Nigerian women trafficked to Italy via Libya by Nigerian crime syndicates, she was taken to a voodoo priest to swear a juju oath to repay the debt.
After what she said was a rough journey through Niger, she and a group of Nigerian migrants arrived in Libya’s southern desert town of Sabha, spent a few weeks there before going to Bani Walid.
“When we got there, they put us in a compound guarded by many armed Arabs with many kinds of guns.” She recalled the scene with a shiver. “We don’t have anything to eat. You couldn’t escape. The place was secure.”
According to Anna, the compound was full of women, at least two hundred.
“They said we are going to Tripoli and they took us to a place that wasn’t far from the place where we were before and so I said to myself, ‘Tripoli is close to Bani Walid.’”
In fact, it wasn’t Tripoli and was only 10 minutes outside Bani Walid. They arrived at night and she was kept indoors for almost two harrowing, terrifying months.
“They slept with us, mistreated us, beat us, and shot people,” she said. “They killed many people — girls and boys, who refused to sleep with them. The people who refused to do what they asked, they killed them and threw them out of the place.”
Asked if she was raped, she responded: “I slept with several men, several times.”
A smuggling chain
Let week, Amnesty International warned that “facilitating the interception and return of refugees and migrants to Libya results in their arbitrary detention in centers where they are at almost certain risk of being tortured, raped and even killed.”
Last year, Human Rights Watch interviewed 47 newly arrived migrants in Sicily who described severe abuses in Libya by government officials, smugglers and members of militias and criminal gangs.
With more women arriving, Anna’s captors moved her and her group along the smuggling chain. The smugglers’ inflatable boat, which Africans nickname balloon boats, capsized in the Mediterranean Sea. Several migrants drowned before an Italian coast guard rescued the survivors, including Anna.
In Italy, she was moved from a reception center in Calabria to another in Torino, where she contacted the business woman’s sister In Nigeria and was told a man would come and collect her.
The man, a Nigerian, took her to a house in Rome, where a woman beat her when she refused to prostitute herself. She was warned of the voodoo consequences of breaking her oath to repay the debt. “Juju works,” she said. “It is our tradition.”
For a month she did as she was told, sleeping with men in a house overseen by an older Nigerian woman, who would receive the money from Anna’s clients. But even juju couldn’t keep her doing the work. At Ancona railway station, an Italian man spotted her, and drove her to the Catholic charity Caritas, which passed her to On the Road.
“What has happened, has happened,” she said. Now she wants to get on with her life. She said the traffickers are “giving my family problems, my siblings” and are threatening them.
“I can’t go back to Nigeria,” she said. “I hope I have a good life in my future.” (VOA)
With the festive season on in full swing, iconic brand Johnnie Walker, is all set to re-energize the country's after-hour culture. Through its one-of-a-kind campaign #RevibeTheNight, the brand brings together beloved music artists like Divine, Ritviz, Lisa Mishra, Taba Chake along with popular indie bands like When Chai Met Toast and Mad Boy Mink, among others to perform live across iconic community spaces in India.
The collaborative effort by Johnnie Walker aims to bring back the after-hour culture through live performances across popular hotspots in India. The brand's goal is drive social regeneration in India and bring back the vibe of socializing through local music artists and reignite the trade, driving social culture by executing the live events with Covid measures in place and a limited capacity audience capacity.
The collaborative effort by Johnnie Walker aims to bring back the after-hour culture through live performances across popular hotspots in India. | Photo by Vishnu R Nair on Unsplash
Prior to the world going into lockdown, the after-hour culture in India bloomed at celebrated community hubs, that eventually became a safe-haven for individuals, a place where they found their sense of self-expression and belonging, that fuelled progress. This community was driven through the culture of live music and enthralling performances that created their very own vibe, a vibe that built extraordinary, forever-lasting relationships. Through #ReVibeTheNight, one can reconnect with this community bringing music curated by artists who have a history of captivating crowds with their one-of-a-kind live experiences. Catch the gigs and live performances for artists in these venues/cities for the live performances.
(Artiicle originally published on IANSlife) (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: johnnie walker, social, #revibethenight, performances, community, artists, culture, festivity, begin
By Nikhila Natarajan
In a continuing study on the effects of machine learning (ML) on public conversation, Twitter has confirmed that its algorithms amplify right-leaning political content. "In six out of seven countries - all but Germany - tweets posted by accounts from the political right receive more algorithmic amplification than the political left when studied as a group," Twitter blogged.
"Right-leaning news outlets, as defined by the independent organisations, see greater algorithmic amplification on Twitter compared to left-leaning news outlets." Since 2016, Twitter users are able to choose between viewing algorithmically ordered tweets first in their home timeline or viewing the most recent tweets in reverse chronological order.
"An algorithmic home timeline displays a stream of tweets from accounts we have chosen to follow on Twitter, as well as recommendations of other content Twitter thinks we might be interested in based on accounts we interact with frequently, tweets we engage with, and more. "As a result, what we see on our timeline is a function of how we interact with Twitter's algorithmic system, as well as how the system is designed."
The new research is based on tweets of elected officials of House of Commons members in Canada, the French National Assembly, the German Bundestag, House of Representatives in Japan, Congress of Deputies of Spain, House of Commons in the UK, and official and personal accounts of House of Representatives and Senate members in the US, as well as news outlets, from April 1 to August 15, 2020.
Tweets about political content from elected officials, regardless of party or whether the party is in power, do see algorithmic amplification when compared to political content on the reverse chronological timeline. | Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash
The study was conducted by Ferenc Huszar (Twitter, University of Cambridge), Sofia Ira Ktena (now at DeepMind Technologies), Conor O'Brien (Twitter), Luca Belli (Twitter), Andrew Schlaikjer (Twitter), and Moritz Hardt (UC Berkeley).
The questions probed were:
How much algorithmic amplification does political content from elected officials receive in Twitter's algorithmically ranked Home timeline versus in the reverse chronological timeline? Does this amplification vary across political parties or within a political party?
Are some types of political groups algorithmically amplified more than others? Are these trends consistent across countries?
Are some news outlets amplified more by algorithms than others? Does news media algorithmic amplification favour one side of the political spectrum more than the other?
Tweets about political content from elected officials, regardless of party or whether the party is in power, do see algorithmic amplification when compared to political content on the reverse chronological timeline. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: algorithmically, timeline, algorithmic, tweets, political, survey, twitter, study, germany, skew
Even as India celebrates reaching a milestone of 100 crore Covid vaccine doses, Snapdeal co-founder and COO Rohit Bansal on Friday lauded a man who facilitated 64 registrations for the vaccine on the CoWin portal. In a video shared on his Facebook and Twitter page, Bansal hailed Sonu Kumar as a "citizen celebrity".
Bansal said that Kumar not only helped "just co-workers and family but complete strangers too. With patience, empathy and uncanny jugaad". He added that Kumar joined him "many moons ago" and completed his open school from a parking lot.
"Education has helped this wonderful man enable others to get India back on track. Bravo! The CoWin portal on Thursday mentioned that a total of 100 crore vaccine doses has been administered so far to the eligible population under the vaccination drive in India, nine months after the nationwide inoculation programme was started to protect the people against Covid-19.
"It's a cause of significant celebration and happiness," Bansal said in the video. He said that while people just help a few around them, Kumar "bridged the digital gap" for 64 people, who were finding it difficult to register themselves online on the vaccine portal. Kumar said he doesn't feel that he has contributed much towards the 100 crore vaccine dose count. "I have been able to help only 64 people, if I was able to help more I would have been happier." (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: cowin, covid, india, people, Rohit bansal, Sonu kumar, vaccine, snapdeal, registrations