How Boko Haram Activists Violate and Abuse Girls and Women – Report
Boko Haram insurgents routinely rape and abuse the girls and women they abducted from Borno and Yobe states, forcibly marrying some and sending others to the front lines to fight Nigerian security forces , according to a new report from Human Rights Watch.
The report, released on Monday, said at least 500 women and girls have been seized by the group since 2009, when the insurgency began.
Human Rights Watch said 30 women and girls who were once prisoners of Boko Haram told its researchers how they had been subjected to various abuses, sometimes for refusing to convert to Islam.
The organization interviewed some of the schoolgirls in Chibok who were abducted by the group on April 14, but who subsequently fled or were released.
The students said almost all of those abducted from their school, located in a predominantly Christian area in Borno state, were Christians.
More broadly, the majority of kidnappings documented by Human Rights Watch took place in the predominantly Christian area of southern Borno state.
Of 30 abduction victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch, 29 were Christians; most appear to have been targeted because of their religious affiliation. Many have been threatened with death if they refuse to convert to Islam, the report adds.
Women have suffered from forced labor, including forced participation in military operations; forced marriage with their captors; and sexual abuse, including rape.
According to Human Rights Watch, 14 women and girls who escaped or were released from Boko Haram camps in Sambisa Forest and Gwoza Hills, along with other witnesses, described how they and others at the camp were routinely forced to cook, clean and perform household chores while Boko Haram was held in the camps.
In 2010, a woman who was kidnapped and detained for three days by Boko Haram in 2009 reportedly recounted how she was forced to wash the bloody clothes of insurgents killed in the violence in July 2009.
Other abducted women and girls were forced to participate in military operations to support the group.
A 19-year-old girl who was held in several camps in the Gwoza Hills for three months in 2013 was forced to participate in attacks and carry ammunition for her captors.
The girl said her job in the camp was cooking for the group of 14 men until a month later, when she was taken for an operation.
“I was told to hold the balls and lie down on the grass while they were fighting. They came to me for extra bullets as the fighting continued during the day, ”she said.
“When the security forces arrived at the scene and started shooting at us, I was scared. The insurgents dragged me along the ground as they fled to the camp.
During another operation, she said that she was asked to approach a group of five men in a nearby village and lure them to where the insurgents were hiding.
The woman said she pretended to be scared and asked for help from the young men, mostly teenage members of the civilian JTF.
“When they followed me for a short distance, the insurgents pounced on them. When they returned to the camp, they tied the legs and hands of the captives and slit the throats of four of them, shouting “Allahu Akbar”. Then I was handed a knife to kill the last man. I was shaking in horror and couldn’t do it. The camp chief’s wife took the knife and killed it, ”she said.
Another victim told Human Rights Watch that although she was spared from work because she had a three-month-old baby when she was abducted in April 2014, she saw others forced to work.
She said she saw some of the schoolgirls in Chibok being forced to cook and clean for other women and girls that the insurgents had chosen for “special treatment because of their beauty.”
Human Rights Watch said it spoke to six victims and witnesses who had been forced to marry or saw women and girls forced to marry Boko Haram fighters.
Four Christian women and girls told Human Rights Watch how they were forced to marry after their kidnapping in late 2013 in Gwoza.
A girl held by insurgents for a month told Human Rights Watch: “When I insisted that I could not marry at 15, the chief, although already married, said he was married. ‘would marry himself. He made us recite a few words in Arabic after him, put new veils on us and said that we were now married.
A 19-year-old girl who was held in a Boko Haram camp in Gwoza told Human Rights Watch that she was offered thousands of naira as a dowry to marry one of the insurgents:
When she refused, asking for the money to be sent to her father, an insurgent who knows her family accepted the money on her behalf.
She eventually escaped and, in anger, the insurgents burned down their family’s home.
Rape and sexual violence
Five victims, aged 15 to 22, described their ordeal, while the other three assaults were described by witnesses, according to the report.
Insurgents took advantage of the absence of a commander and sexually abused abductees who were not yet “married”.
One woman, who was raped in 2013 at a Boko Haram camp near Gwoza, described how a commander’s wife appeared to be encouraging crime:
“I was lying in the cave pretending to be sick because I didn’t want the marriage the commander had planned to have me with another insurgent on his return from Sambisa camp. When the insurgent who had paid my dowry entered to force himself on me, the commander’s wife blocked the entrance to the cave and saw the man raping me, ”she said.
A 15-year-old girl who was kidnapped in 2013 and spent four weeks with Boko Haram reportedly said she refused to have sex with one of the fighters despite being forced to ” marry”.
“After we were declared married, I was ordered to live in his cave, but I always managed to avoid it. He soon started threatening me with a knife to have sex with him, and when I always refused, he pulled out his gun, warning that he would kill me if I screamed. Then he started raping me every night. He was a huge man in his thirties and I had never had sex before.
It was very painful and I cried bitterly because I was bleeding afterwards.
A 19-year-old woman, married with children, described how she and another woman were raped after being abducted with four other women in April 2014:
“When we got to the camp, they left us under a tree. I managed to sleep; I was exhausted and scared. Late at night, two insurgents shook me and another woman, saying their leader wanted to see us.
We had no choice but to follow them, but as soon as we got deeper into the woods one of them dragged me away, while his partner took the other woman into a other direction.
I guessed what they had in mind and started to cry. I begged him, telling him that I was a married woman. He ignored my calls, threw me to the ground and raped me. I couldn’t tell anyone what had happened, not even my husband. I still feel so ashamed and cheated.
The other woman told me that she was also raped, but vowed never to talk about it again as she was single and believed the news of her rape would rule out her chances of getting married.
A 20-year-old woman, kidnapped in September 2013, told Human Rights Watch that the insurgent she was “married” wore a mask all the time, even when he raped her.
Even though she had since escaped, she said, “I’m still afraid to go anywhere because it could be any of the people around me. Every time I see a huge black man, I jump for fear that he will come and get me. I stay awake some nights because I dream of those terrible weeks I spent in their camp.
Download the Full report here.
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