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Zainab Aliyu: How I Survived 124 Days In Saudi Prison

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Zainab Aliyu, a Nigerian who was detained in Saudi Arabia for alleged drug trafficking, says she learnt “pure Arabic” and memorised half of the Qur’an during her 124-day stay in prison.

Aliyu was arrested on December 26 after tramadol, a drug prohibited in Saudi Arabia was found in her bag.

The 22-year-old student of the Maitama Sule University, Kano, had travelled to Saudi Arabia for lesser hajj alongside her mother and sister.

She, was, however, arrested by Saudi authorities over allegations that the bag bearing her name tag contained tramadol.

In an interview with Daily Trust, she narrated her experience in detention, how she found it hard to trust people and eventually got close to an Ethiopian lady simply identified as Rehisty.

She explained that she suffered communication gap with Rehisty whom she said understands little English while she (Aliyu), knew just a bit of Arabic.

Aliyu said, “I met several people. But I can assure you, it took me some days before I could trust some of the inmates. That’s because after realizing that I was actually framed, I couldn’t bring myself to trust anyone. I did not trust anybody there, even among my roommates. The only person that I can say I trusted, is one Ethiopian lady with whom I was brought in.

“Yes, but only the Ethiopian lady I mentioned earlier, called Rehisty. When we were brought there, together, we found it difficult to communicate, because she could only understand a little English, and I understand only a little Arabic. So, it took us some time before we started communicating, in Arabic, which I picked up while in detention.

“I learnt pure Arabic. I also joined Tahfiuz school, and Alhamdulillah, I was able to memorize half of the Holy Qur’an during my stay in the prison. I also learnt how to live with people from different backgrounds.”

Narrating her ordeal from when she was picked up in her hotel room till when she was released, Aliyu said it took about a week for her to come to terms that she was in prison.

She, however, said she and the other inmates were well taken care of, adding that she experienced no form of harassment or intimidation.

She said, “I spent almost one week without knowing that I was in a prison, because I did not commit any offence.

“They treated us like human beings. Nobody humiliated or harassed anyone in there. And I spent 124 days there.”

Aliyu thanked the federal government and everyone who worked towards securing her release.


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