The young Italian woman who has returned home after being held hostage for 18 months in Somalia has said she converted to Islam during her time in captivity, and it was a choice made of her own free will.
Silvia Constanza Romano, 24, was rescued from the East African Al-Shabab terror group in a joint Turkish-Somali-Italian operation and her return to Rome made international headlines.
But her decision to convert to Islam has caused criticism of Italian officials role in her rescue.
The director of the right-wing newspaper ‘Libero’, Vittorio Feltri, tweeted that the Italian authorities were financing Islamic terrorism by allegedly paying Romano’s ransom to free her.
He wrote: “Paying the ransom for Silvia means financing Islamic terrorists. Who are the friends of the girl who became Muslim. Nice operation.”
The comments were made after Romano returned wearing a traditional Somalian headdress and she has now confirmed she converted to Islam during her time as a hostage.
She said: “It was spontaneous and not forced. In the months I was captive I was given a Koran and thanks to my captors I also learned some Arabic. They explained their reasons and culture to me. My conversion process was slow and happened in the months after that.”
Italian news agency ANSA says she told Italian prosecutors she had converted of her own free will, telling them: “Luckily I’m well, physically and mentally, I’m really happy (to be back), now I just want to be with my family. I was moved often, always with the same captors (in Somalia), there was no marriage or relationships, just respect.”
The 24-year-old aid worker said she was handed over to Al-Shabab by a group of eight armed captors who abducted her from a shopping centre near Malindi in Kenya in November 2018. She was then taken to Somalia.
ANSA report she told prosecutors that her first month as a hostage was “the most terrible” adding that she “cried all the time”.
She has now returned to her native Milan and reportedly told reporters “respect this moment” when asked if she would return to Kenya.
Lilian Sora, the founder of the Africa Milele charity Romano was working for in Kenya, said: “I never stopped investigating all the time Silvia was abducted. I discovered that she was being watched: I suspect that some members of the command slept close to our home before the kidnapping.”
Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said that Romano being back home with her family “is the only thing that counts” adding that the “intense, infinite, true, and touching embrace between Silvia and her father, mother and sister moved everybody”.
The Ananova page is created by and dedicated to professional, independent freelance journalists. It is a place for us to showcase our work. When our news is sold to our media partners, we will include the link here.