A 23-year-old Nigerian woman has fled ritual violence inflicted on her in her home country because she is an albino and now, she has graduated at Trento university in northern Italy.
Speaking after becoming the first person to benefit from an asylum seeker university programme and graduate in Comparative European and International legal studies, Joy Ehikioya said:
“This is a story of violence, of ancestral superstitions, and still more violence. It is also a story of involuntary emigration, something close to deportation. And, in the end, the story of reclaiming one’s own name: reclaimed, re-learned”.
Ehikioya’s bravery and determination enabled her to leave Nigeria, where she was abducted and raped as an albino and used in a ‘magic’ rite, and get into the University of Trento’s pioneering asylum seekers’ programme.
Joy’s story is a story of violence linked to the world of local superstitions. And to her being born an albino like another sister, a peculiarity that in some segments of Nigerian society can generate discrimination and persecution.
I come from an extended family and from a country that does not appreciate people with albinism – writes Joy in her diary -. They see them (people with albinism) as having a dangerous disease, so they don’t want to be either associated with them or seen while they are together.
The arrival of two albino people in the same family was then conceived as something that the ancestral gods sent to some families because they committed an offense to the sacred. Albinos are a form of punishment for committed sins.
Despite parental protection, Joy ended up in a spiral of violence, expressed primarily through rape. In a text from her online diary entitled Sacrificed she tells of being tied up first and then raped by two men in the belief that this would bring them wealth.
Albina, please make your head bring us a lot of money, make sure there is no suffering for us for the rest of our life, bring us a lot of money please were the words of the ritual: One of those men begins to untie the knots on my legs – he writes again – and for a moment I thought that, out of compassion, he had changed his mind. But on the other side, I saw another man undress.
I knew it was over and I hoped for a natural death. She managed to escape after days from a window, jumping on a pile of glass that almost bled her out, but the continuation of the story always under the banner of pain, a winding and violent road that he takes it to Libya in the trunk of a car.
The unthinkable happens: the last of her tormentors, who had bought her, repents and leads her to a beach where a boat would then leave for Italy: They gave me directions to sit in the crowd and a few minutes later the Arab man who had bought me called me he told me in unkind and archaic English that they would put me on that boat on a journey to Italy, next to all those people, and that when I arrived in Italy they would treat me well, they would take care of me, but that I would have to explain well to the people in Italy everything that had happened to me and that they would know what to do to help me. I didn’t know if he was telling the truth, but he seemed honest to me.
From that (precarious) journey that united hope and despair a new life was born, now embellished with a degree.
Story credit: Italian News Agency (ANSA)