Independent Moro Filmmakers Held Captive in Sulu

Linda and Nadjoua Bansil are independent film-makers and human rights defenders.

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Their films are based on issues on human rights, the Moro culture and extractive industries such as mining.

They are Moro women concerned for the plight and preservation of the culture of the Moro people.

Edd K Usman of Manila Bulletin in an article published today (June 24) disclosed the identity of Nadj and Linda Bansil. The sisters are daughters of a Filipino and an Algerian. Their late father, Aleem (Ustadhz) Abdulbasit Bansil, met their mother, Ms. Fatiha Elouali, on a study trip in Egypt, they fell in love and got married. All four children were born in Algeria but since 1982 they have settled in the Philippines.

According to Mohammed Bansil, Nadj and Linda’s younger brother and head of the Bansil family, they are Filipino citizens. In Muslim culture, he said, the nationality of the father is the nationality of the children.

Nadj and Linda finished their college in Ateneo de Zamboanga University, where they have always been active in human rights issues.

Last year, the sisters produced the film Bohe. A film that tells the story about a group of Badjaos who found home in a tiny patch of land somewhere in Southern Luzon they’ve called “Badjawan Island.”

Bohe, the first ever Badjao film, was screened in the 2012 Cinemelaya Philippine Independent Film Festival and in the Cebu Documentary International Film Festival. This year, Bohe was nominated in the Gawad Urian Awards.

For a long time, Nadj has been banking a story of coffee growers in Mindanao. When the contacts were established; she decided to take her sister Linda with her to shoot the film.

When news about the abduction happened, Pecojon’s Len Manriquez called Nadj’ number and Yasir Rajim of the Sulu Sultanate Darul Islam answered the call and said he is Nadj’ contact in Sulu. He narrated the incident of the kidnapping:

“On Thursday, they arrived in Jolo and were hosted by the Sulu Sultanate Darul Islam (SSDI). On Friday morning they went to Sinumaan stayed overnight in the area to take some shots of the sunrise. On Saturday they started to take off to Jolo, at about 10a.m., they were kidnapped in Liang, Patikul. They were on board a jeepney and the road was blocked by armed men.”

Rajim said that they were not able to stop the kidnappers from taking the sisters. The kidnappers were armed and SSDI were not. He also said that they insisted to be taken as well but the kidnappers only wanted to take the two ladies.

There have been reports that the sisters are working as PR of a sultanate. Edd K. Usman has clarified in an article in Manila Bulletin that “they are not working as public relations officer of any sultan of Sulu”.

Initial media reports said the sisters are Filipino-Algerian. This worried the family and friends of Linda and Nadj. Through the urging of Mohammed Bansil, media was requested to identify the sisters by their legal nationality – Filipino – and not that of their mother, which is not germane.

This is to help assure their safety. Being identified as Fil-Algerian gives an unwarranted impression of wealth, to their prejudice. The family also requested to allow them to internally handle the negotiations and that they wish not to divulge any information to ensure safety of the sisters.

As of this writing, the sisters are still held captive by the kidnappers in Sulu. It is not yet verified if the captors are from the Abu Sayaff or from another kidnap-for-ransom group. There has been no information what the kidnappers want.

Nadjoua Bansil and Linda Bansila are members of Pecojon-The Peace and Conflict Journalism Network. They were trained in 2006 and 2007 respective for the courses on conflict-sensitive reporting and has ever since been active in using the strategies of CSJ in the documentary films that they do. Pecojon calls on the immediate action of authorities in Sulu especially the Sulu Area Coordinating Council to convene as a crisis committee and retrieve the sisters.