Senegal: National Women’s Movement calls for the release of Mère Ami Dia, a critically ill female political detainee

Mojip (Mouvement National Jigeenou Pastef) began Women’s History Month with a press conference, calling for the release of Mère Ami Dia, a mother, wife, and member of Pastef who was arrested in July 2022 on suspicion of funding terrorist activities in Senegal.

“Under Macky Sall’s regime, women are crying,” said Maimouna Dieye, the president of Mojip. Every day, they deal with pain, sickness, illegal detention, and humiliation. We hope that during this month dedicated to women, the government will allow us to express what is in our hearts, what pains us, and what we see is not moving the country forward. If you are a member of the government, you are safe. If you are not a government member, you will be in and out of jail.”

Mère Ami Dia’s sister, Awa Dia, recalled in an interview on Walfadjri TV the day she was taken away from her family.

“A man came asking for her the day after Eid-al-Adha,” Awa Dia explained. “I told him she was not home. He came back two days later. With all the social work she was doing, I thought it was maybe someone who needed help. I walked him upstairs to her room. A few minutes after I came back downstairs, I heard them arguing. The man said the judge wanted to see her, and she wanted to inform my mother. The man wouldn’t allow it. We all stepped in and told him we were all coming with him. When we got there, they arrested her.”

After a year and seven months in jail, Mère Ami Dia was transferred to Abass NDao Hospital on Friday, February 23, 2024, for hyperglycemia. Sources say she was critically ill, and her family was not allowed to see her.

One of her children, Nandy, who attended the press conference, was heartbroken: “We have been suffering since the day she was arrested,” she stated. “There is no more joy on our faces. They looked for her for 15 days in our neighborhood before locating her. If she were a terrorist, she would be well-known. She only goes to work and comes back home. She is a loving mother.”

“You wake up one day and say she is a terrorist, accuse her of being a member of the ‘special forces,'” Nandy added. “You jail her for 18 months. There was nothing wrong with her. Now she has lost so much weight that I’m heavier than her. I look at her, every time, in disbelief, wondering when this happened to her. In what country are we? What is happening? Some people are dying while others are leaving the country. I never liked politics, but I must get involved now. I’m not fighting for my mom because she is still alive, but what about those who died? We are going to scream because they took from us a healthy human being. Now she is sick, and we don’t want a dead body back that we will have to visit at the cemetery. We are going to speak up. She is very ill, and to this day, I can’t see her. There is nothing worse than announcing that she would be released and having us wait outside the prison until 10 p.m. for the prison staff to tell us they didn’t receive her release documents.”

Maimouna Dieye recalled that day.

“The day they started releasing people, I went to the prison hoping that Mère Ami Dia too would be released,” she said. “It was not the case. Maybe that deception made her sugar level go up. We sympathize with her because she has been there for over a year. Not even a man can handle that level of pain.”

But Mère Ami Dia is not the only political detainee held by the government; there are more than a thousand victims. Senegalese jails, which don’t have a good reputation, are overcrowded. Some of the released detainees mentioned torture, molestation, and inhumane conditions.

A 10-month-old baby who has not received any vaccines yet is the youngest detainee in the women’s jail. Sokhna Khady, the mother, and her entire family were arrested because they could not find one of her wanted relatives, Ousmane Fall. A couple of weeks ago, her husband filed a request to get the baby out so he could get vaccinated; it was denied.”

Sokhna Mame Diarra was also arrested and tortured.

“I’m so emotional right now,” Sokhna Mame Diarra confessed in tears. “I haven’t cried in front of people since the day I lost one of my parents. Women in Senegal have been suffering since 2012, especially the ones who are members of the political party Pastef. We are asking Macky Sall to come back to reason. Everything on earth comes to an end. He will be asked by God how he led Senegal. For us Senegalese women, his leadership is synonymous with pain, beatings, killings, and torture. We were beaten in a police car, our wrap skirt lifted. If you could see the bodies of some of the women, you would not believe what was done to them. Some of us are still having difficulties sitting on our beds. Torture is nothing new. We have lived it for a long time under Macky Sall’s regime.”

Lucie Sané, the coordinator of the collective of families of political detainees, could not restrain her frustration.

“If these people were the terrorists they were accused of being, do you think they would be released just like that?” Lucie Sané asked. “If these people were members of the ‘special forces’ as they stated, and if they were the criminals they were accused of being, they would have never been released. All the previously detained people are going back and forth to the hospital. They are all sick. Most of the detainees were arrested because they were protesting. The right to demonstrate is not a crime.”

No matter how critical the situation is, Maimouna Dieye believes there is still hope that Mère Ami Dia will be out soon before it is too late.

“We know that Macky Sall has a mother, a wife, a daughter, and female friends,” Maimouna Dieye stated. “We want him to extend the same compassion he has for those women to all Senegalese women. To the Senegalese women, he has been harassing. Seventeen of us were arrested in 2021. We slept on the cold tile floor for seven days. We could not sleep. They refused to give us what we needed. They would even follow you to the bathroom and knock on the door if you spent more than 5 minutes there. There are things we can’t even say here. We have one of our members, Mariama Sagna, who is dead. To this day, we do not know who killed her. This is violence, and it won’t go away until we know what happened to her. We demand that all prisoners be freed. We demand that Ami Dia be released. She should be next to her family and not in prison.”

Related Images: