Forty-eight-year-old Polish historian and activist, Piotr Cywinski, has attracted global attention after offering to lead 119 other volunteers to spend a month in Nigerian prison in order for convicted Nigerian teens, Umar Farouq to be set free.
In his September 25, 2020, a dated letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, seeking freedom for the juvenile, Cywinski insists that if Buhari is unable to facilitate the teenager’s release, he and others would serve a month so that the teen, who was convicted of blasphemy, can regain freedom.
He also promised to “make an attempt to provide financial help for the boy’s proper education,” if the request for clemency is granted. “This way, instead of a destroyed young man, Nigeria will gain awareness, and educated young citizen.”
Cywinski’s request came only a few days after the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) appealed to the Kano State government to reverse the jail sentence handed the 13-year-old by a Sharia court for “using disparaging language on Allah” during a disagreement with his friend.
In the seven-paragraph letter, Cywinski, who is the director of Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum wrote: “I permit myself to write to you personally about a young boy named Omar Farouq, who was convicted recently in a Sharia court in Kano State in North West Nigeria after being accused of blasphemy used during an argument with a friend.
“As the director of the Auschwitz Memorial, that commemorates the victims and preserves the remains of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp, where children were imprisoned and murdered, I cannot remain indifferent to this disgraceful sentence for humanity.
“I wish to request the pardon of this 13-year-old boy. Regardless of what he said, he cannot be treated as fully aware and responsible, given his age. He should not be subjected to the loss of the entirety of his youth, be deprived of opportunities, and stigmatized physically, emotionally, and educationally for the rest of his life. I am convinced that the authority you possess can still undo this sentence,” he wrote.
Cywinski continued: “However if it turns out that the words of this child absolutely require 120 months of imprisonment, and even you are not able to change that, I suggest that in place of the child, 120 adult volunteers from all over the world, gathered by us – myself personally among them – should each serve a month in a Nigeria prison. In total, the price for the child’s transgression will be the same, and we will all avoid the worst.
“You will undoubtedly agree with the statement that human rights begin with the rights of the child. I kindly ask you to consider my proposal favorably,” he concluded.