By KARLI FEINSTEIN
The three Burundi schoolgirls who were detained for drawing on President Pierre Nkurunziza’s picture in a school textbook have been released.
The schoolgirls, aged 15, 16 and 17, were first charged on March 18 with “insulting the head of state” by doodling designs like mustaches and glasses on his face in a textbook used at the school.
Nyanzira Prosper, the girls’ lawyer, told the BBC they were freed on bail until the girls appear in court. Mr. Prosper states that the charges will stand, and prosecutors will continue to investigate the case.
Due to the schoolgirls’ being detained, the Burundian government went into international condemnation. People all over twitter were showing their support for the girls by recreating the images the girls drew of Nkurunziza with the hashtag #FreeOurGirls.
Other school children in Burundi have been jailed for very similar acts.
The National Intelligence Service of Burundi arrested eight high school students in 2016, for apparently disrespecting Nkurunziza by writing phrases such as “No to the 3rd term” on a picture in a textbook, according to the Human Rights Watch.
“Authorities should focus on holding perpetrators of serious rights violations to account instead of jailing schoolchildren for doodles,” said Human Rights Watch’s Central Africa Director, Lewis Mudge.
Nkurunziza has been in office since 2005. He was re-elected to a third term in 2015 despite major protest and concerns about his past terms as president.
Reading a story like this makes me feel so blessed to be living in a country like America. It’s so sad to see that in other countries children can get treated so badly by the government especially for such a minor incident. Drawing on the president in a textbook is something no one would get in trouble for in America due the first amendment and freedom of speech. I hope the Burundi government over throws the president so that country can live under better, more reasonable laws.