Christian Teen Whose Dad, Brother Slain by Boko Haram Was Denied U.S. Visa

Penny Starr | May 14, 2014 | 4:59am EDT
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Deborah Peters of Nigeria says she, too, is a victim of Boko Haram. ( Starr)

( – A 15-year-old girl who witnessed the murder of her father and teenage brother at the hands of Boko Haram terrorists says she decided to tell her story after the group kidnapped almost 300 schoolgirls last month in the same village in northern Nigeria where she grew up.

Deborah Peters, speaking Tuesday at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., recalled how in 2011 members of Boko Haram came to her home in Chibok, where she lived with her brother and father, who was a pastor of a local church.

“Three men knocked on our door, and then my brother opened the door for them,” Peters said. “And they asked him, ‘Where is your dad?’ And he told them, ‘My dad is in the bathroom taking a shower.’

The men said her father was “wasting their time.”

“So when they take [sic] him out of the bathroom, they told him that he should deny his faith,” Peters said. “He told them that he can’t deny his faith, so they told him that they were going to kill him if he didn’t deny his faith.

“But he told them that he should rather die than to go to hellfire,” Peters said. “So my dad refused to deny his faith, and then they shoot [sic] him three times in the chest.”

The Islamic terrorists also shot her brother three times, then tied up Deborah and left her lying between the two corpses.

“I was in shock,” Peters said.

Emmanuel Ogebe, the human rights attorney who helped Peters come to the United States, said that visa requests filed on Peters’ behalf were denied “multiple times,” with the State Department citing no family ties in the U.S. as the reason.

But Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, said the State Department only designated Boko Haram as a terrorist organization in November of last year and that the Obama administration claimed poverty, not religion, drove the group’s ideology.

“One of the problems is that the State Department has been reluctant to even talk about this in terms of religious persecution,” Shea said. “And, in fact, I’m thinking back to the Assistant Secretary for Africa and his speech in 2012, where he said that this was a problem of poor delivery of government services—that’s what was motivating Boko Haram—and that it was poverty.

“And then the response of the U.S. was all economic at that time,” Shea said, adding that the administration doesn’t recognize what’s happening in Nigeria “as the human rights crisis that it is. Maybe this incident and the Chibok girls will change that,” Shea said.

As the event concluded, Peters held up a sign and smiled broadly for the first time. It read “ #Bring Back My Sisters.”

In November 2013 the State Department announced it had added Boko Haram to its list of “foreign terrorist organizations.”

“Boko Haram has been conducting an ongoing and brutal campaign against Nigerian military, government, and civilian targets,” the press release stated. “Among its most lethal attacks, Boko Haram carried out indiscriminate attacks in Benisheikh, Nigeria in September 2013 that killed more than 160 innocent civilians, including women and children.

“Boko Haram has also conducted attacks against international targets, including a suicide bombing of the United Nations building in Abuja on August 26, 2011, that killed 21 people and injured dozens more, many of them aid workers supporting development projects across Nigeria,” the press release said.

In its 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism, the State Department said the group had killed more than 1,000 people that year.

“The terrorist group Boko Haram (BH), and a splinter group commonly known as Ansaru, carried out kidnappings, killings, bombings, and attacks on civilian and military targets in northern Nigeria, resulting in over one thousand deaths, injuries, and significant destruction of property in 2013,” the report states.

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