A new report by Human Rights Watch has revealed that no fewer 500 women and girls have been abducted by the dreaded Boko Haram sect since 2009 and most of them have been forcefully married, while others have been forced to join them in their fight against Nigeria’s security agents.
The 63-page report which was released on Monday, October 27, on the Human Rights Watch website is based on interviews with some of the victims of Boko Haram abductions in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states, including some of the Chibok girls who managed to escape from the insurgents after their kidnap on April 14, 2014.
The victims appear to have been targeted either because of their religion or for attending western-styled schools which Boko Harm is against. All but one of the victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch were Christian.
The victims recounted how they were subjected to a variety of abuses, from being forced to marry, to converting to Islam, to being raped and lots more.
One of the victims, a 19-year-old secondary school student in Konduga, Borno State, told Human Rights Watch that the Boko Haram insurgents had stopped the vehicle in which she and five other female students were traveling home from school in January. On seeing them, one of the insurgents had said, “Aha! These are the people we are looking for. So you are the ones with strong heads who insist on attending school when we have said ‘boko’ is ‘haram.’ We will kill you here today.”
She said they were held for two days in Sambisa forest and later released after they pretended to be Muslims and promised never to return to school.
Another young lady held in a camp near Gwoza described how the insurgents placed a noose around her neck and threatened her with death until she renounced her religion while others were repeatedly threatened with whipping, beating, or death unless they converted to Islam, stopped attending school, and complied with Islamic dressing rules, such as wearing veils or the hijab.
When one of the victims, a 15-year-old girl, complained to a Boko Haram commander that she and the other abducted girls were too young for marriage, he pointed at his 5-year-old daughter, and said: “If she got married last year, and is just waiting till puberty for its consummation, how can you at your age be too young to marry?”
A woman, who was raped in 2013 in a Boko Haram camp near Gwoza, described how a commander’s wife appeared to encourage the crime. She said: “I was lying down in the cave pretending to be ill because I did not want the marriage the commander planned to conduct for me with another insurgent on his return from the Sambisa camp. When the insurgent who had paid my dowry came in to force himself on me, the commander’s wife blocked the cave entrance and watched as the man raped me.”
Another 19-year-old who was held in several camps in the Gwoza hills for three months in 2013 narrated how she was forced to participate in attacks and to carry ammunition for the insurgents.
“I was told to hold the bullets and lie in the grass while they fought. They came to me for extra bullets as the fight continued during the day. When security forces arrived at the scene and began to shoot at us, I fell down in fright. The insurgents dragged me along on the ground as they fled back to camp,” she was quoted as saying.
According to her after another operation, they had asked her to kill a man but she couldn’t and the camp leader’s wife took the knife from her and did it herself.
A 20-year-old woman, abducted in September 2013, told Human Rights Watch that the insurgent she was to “married” wore a mask all the time, even when he raped her.
Though she has long escaped, she is still afraid of going anywhere.
Watch interviews below:
Boko Haram intensified its abductions in May, 2013 when the government imposed a state of emergency in some states in the north eastern region, where Boko Haram is most active.
The militants threaten victims with whipping, beating, or death unless they convert to Islam, stop attending school, and wear the veil or hijab. Boko Haram translates roughly from the Hausa language as “Western education is forbidden” religiously.