Although I strongly detest and condemn the arrest of young and innocent Yusupaha Lowe 14 years old, I became more engrossed into the fight for his immediate release when I saw his photo. The picture depicted his beautiful smile and innocence, when he posed for that picture the last thing on his mind must have been to be arrested since 1st January 2015, detained and tortured.
No matter how bad the human rights violations in The Gambia, it is unfathomable to hear arrests and detention of children not because they committed crimes, but because The Gambia Government is detaining Yusupha for a crime allegedly committed by his father Bai Lowe (for his alleged participation in the December 2014 attacks).
We teach our children to be obedient, we teach them manners and those manners become their insurance policy against being punished. Imagine his confusion when he knew he did not do anything wrong, but suffers a consequence he does not understand? My heart is heavy. I have cried so many tears for Yusupha because I am a mother, I have cried many tears for Yusupha because he is being treated unfairly.
As a mother, I fear this horrible experience will impact him very negatively for the rest of his life. How can The Gambia National Intelligence Agency (NIA) officers, most of whom may be parents, allow themselves to be responsible for the inhumane treatment of a minor? How is it possible that his mother Jarriatou Lowe, was also arrested but released and forced to leave her minor child in the custody of authorities? I cannot imagine the agony of walking away from detention, not knowing what will happen to your child! When we retire to bed at night, my children and I say “I love you” to each other – I tuck the younger one in…. I think of Yusupha and he is being denied that right. He is at the ripe age where the challenges of his growth (reaching puberty) are big enough.
As a mother, I am afraid of the new Gambia where children are detained because of the alleged crimes of their fathers. If we allow this to continue, we are allowing a trend that is not acceptable and should not be condoned in The Gambia. Once referred to as the “Smiling Coast of Africa”, Gambians now live in a society where Yusupha Lowe is in custody but nothing is being done about it. Every country has child welfare institutions that protects the rights of children from abuse and exploitation. In the case of Gambia, when asked by the press to intervene in the abduction of Yusupha, the Director of Social Welfare was quoted as saying “I don’t have permission to talk to the press.” This is surprising to me because I acquired my first employment opportunity with the Department of Social Welfare. At the time, the Department protected the rights of children all the way to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. If a father was delinquent in their responsibilities to support children, the Department summoned the absentee parent to court and was forced into monthly payments.
When the parent was uncorporative, his salary was garnished and paid to the parent responsible for the care of the said child. When a child needed critical medical attention overseas, the Director of Social Welfare would coordinate with international sources to take the child for treatment.
I wonder what happened to that same Department fast forward 20 years? Under President Dawda Kairaba Jawara, the rights of the children were protected because they matter. Under President Yahya Jammeh’s regime, using Yusupha Lowe as a pawn in his dad’s alleged crime becomes normal because the president’s rules and rights supersedes the rule of law and the right of an innocent child. This young boy has been arrested and has not been in school since his arrest on January 1st, 2015. Why aren’t people in The Gambia doing anything about his detention? The simple answer is this: fear and intimidation.
I go to bed thinking about the fear in Yusupha eyes, I think of Yusupha when my boys and I laugh and eat together. I think of Yusupha when I wake up in the morning because I know he is confined in a place against his will. My heart aches when I sit down next to my children and feel their warmth, Yusupha is being denied that privilege. One thing I know for sure is that although people in The Gambia are unable to speak up against Yusupha’s detention, torture and intimidation, he has mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters in the Diaspora.
I am overwhelmed by the level of anger expressed by total strangers, including myself. People who are afraid of speaking up against Yahya Jammeh because they want to continue going in and out of Gambia are putting those fears aside and standing up against Yusupha’s capture because they know it’s the right thing to do. People have spent endless hours on Facebook and Twitter expressing their rage. Yusupha, we may not have access to you right now, but be rest assured you have many who are looking out for you from afar, we will not let you disappear into thin year. We will not keep your voice silent because we have become your voice, If you would like to be a voice for Yusupha, the “FreeYusuphaLowe” campaign continues on Facebook and Twitter. As a mother, I am making a pledge that I mention him in my daily tweets and I will talk about Yusupha any chance I get. That’s my pledge. Please make the same pledge and visit the “FreeYusuphaLowe” page on Facebook
PEASE LET’S MAKE THE FOLLOWING HASHTAGS TREND ON TWITTER and bring world attention to 14 year old Yusupha’s plight. He needs to go home to his mom! If you are not on Twitter, this campaign should be the reason for you to join – it is easy!