Christian Eshiett was a rambunctious pre-teen who spent a lot of time cavorting with his friends in southern Nigeria. He would skip school and run away from home for days, frustrating his grandfather, who oversaw the boy’s care.
“I beat him severely with canes until they broke, yet he never shed a tear,” said Eshiett Nelson Eshiett, 76. “One day, I took a broom to hit him and he started crying. Then I knew he was possessed by demons. … Nigerian witches are terrified of brooms.”
From that day two years ago, Christian, now 14, was branded a witch. The abuse intensified.
“They would take my clothes off, tie me up and beat me,” he told CNN in a telephone interview.
The teen is one of the so-called witch children in Eket, a city in oil-rich Akwa Ibom state of Nigeria.
They are blamed for causing illness, death and destruction, prompting some communities to put them through harrowing punishments to “cleanse” them of their supposed magical powers.
“Children accused of witchcraft are often incarcerated in churches for weeks on end and beaten, starved and tortured in order to extract a confession,” said Gary Foxcroft, program director of Stepping Stones Nigeria, a nonprofit that helps alleged witch children in the region.