Women Narrates Ordeal As Sex Slaves In Boko Haram Camps
Almost daily, one hears of insurgents claiming lives, destroying properties and kidnapping of women and girls in parts of north- eastern Nigeria. Some victims have lived to talk about their ordeals, many have not. But what actually happens to the female folk in the hands of their abductors? The silent agonies, pains and tribulation some of our women and girls pass through in the hands of the Boko Haram has, until now only been left to the imagination. KAREEM HARUNA, Maiduguri writes.
It was the last week of January; Salma Abubakar (not her real names) had finished her transaction in one of the frontline banks in Maiduguri, capital of Nigeria’s most volatile state, Borno. All she needed to do, before she stepped out of the banking hall, was to drop a copy of her transaction teller in the designated box. But someone attracted her attention. She had to pause and look again. Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine she would ever see that face again. She carefully walked towards the 26-year-old who was standing in a queue waiting to be attended by the cashier.
Salma, 43, could not believe her eyes, and in order not to let the only moment she had so much longed for to escape her, she at once pounced on the young man, holding him by the collar of his shirt with both hands and shouting, “He is the one, he is the one! God will punish you, you will rot in hell!”
Everyone one at the banking hall was left confused, as the security operatives there struggled to release the young man from the strangle hold of the woman, who was still screaming.
When Salma, still clutching the shirt of the young man, finally regained her breath, she said “this young man here was part of the group that kidnapped me and other women to the bush; and this particular boy forcefully slept with me more than ten times; he used me like a dog; God will never forgive him. Please don’t let him go; he must die”.
Soldiers were invited inside the banking hall, and to cut a long story short, the young man confessed to being a Boko Haram member and had truly abducted many women – both old and young – whom they often gang-raped in their bush hideouts.
Salma was indeed a very courageous woman, not giving a hoot about what the world will think of her and her pride, to tell the true but bitter tale of her plight in the hands of Boko Haram terrorists. After the incident, those who saw Salma walked away, heard her saying loudly almost absentmindedly, raising her hands upward saying “God, I thank you, even if I die today, I am a happy woman”.
LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that many a number of innocent women and girls are today silently mourning their abused pride and womanhood because “it is a shame” for them to discuss it- they fear the attendant stigma that would haunt them for, perhaps, the rest of their lives.
But Halima’s case had been able to unveil many of such cases, as relatives and neighbours of women and girls that had suffered rape during their captivity, begin to speak; though many would rather lose their tongues than to mention names of victims.
A recent study by the American Psychological Association (APA), published in its October edition of Archives of Sexual Behavior, and which was intended “to expand the scope” of what the world already knows about “how rape affects women’s lives” revealed that “women who have been raped or experienced attempted sexual assault do not only often “develop anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder”, a new study suggests that sexual assault can have pernicious effects in other domains of a woman’s life, including her intimate relationships, how she views her sexual and social reputation, and the quality of her family and social relationships”.
Many women and female children in Borno, Yobe and perhaps Adamawa state may be suffering in such manner today.
LEADERSHIP Sunday can authoritatively report that in the past two years, no less than 200 women and girls (both married and single) have been abducted and taken to the camps of Boko Haram, and have probably suffered the agonies of being turned into sex tools by men of the Boko Haram who forcefully defile them or forced them into unholy marriages while being held in captivity.
Many who were later freed have chosen to live in silence with their burning agonies bottled up as they could not confront the world with the shame of being raped, again and again by men of the Boko Haram. Many who were married had unfortunately become divorced because of it.
Rosemary Edo (not her real names too), a young lady from the Cross River state, who works in Maiduguri, was lucky to escape the camp of the Boko Haram, somewhere near Bama, she said. But she was not the type that will keep mum over her plight there in the hands of the Boko Haram.
On a hospital bed, Rosemary tells anyone who cares to listen that “I cannot pretend that I am okay, when I know I am not. How could I have been okay when over seven men would sleep with me everyday, for over two months; sometimes they use condom, but afterwards, no one uses a condom again?”
According to nurses who attended to Rosemary and spoke with LEADERSHIP Sunday, she was held captive with more than 30 other women and young girls and each of them were forcefully used by the Boko Haram terrorists; the virgin ones or the very young ones were given to the leaders, “while Rosemary and some other elderly women and married ones too are left for the other men who would take their turns in forcing us to sleep with them”.
LEADERSHIP Sunday had also reliably learnt that while so many of the abducted women and girls may not have made it back from the captivity of the Boko Haram, as some may have been killed, or died of tortures either from punishment for non-compliance to the sexual demands of the Boko Haram gunmen with inflated adrenalin, those that were ‘lucky’ to have returned back home still have to contend with the issue of stigma. Many may also have to contend with sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies from fathers they would rather die than to see again.
A serving police Inspector in Maiduguri is no more a happy man. His wife and mother of his four children was abducted in early 2013 along with his younger sister. He said he did not set eyes on them for about four months until they were later rescued by the members of the Civilian-JTF from one of the terrorists camps last year. But sadly for the policeman, his joy of reuniting with his family was dampened when he took them to the hospital for medical checkup. Both his wife and his younger sister were about two months pregnant.
The police Inspector is now left in a dilemma. His affection for his wife may have been doused, which is natural; he and his wife, as well as his sister had to contend with the dilemma of bringing babies that are not wanted into the world.
Another report was made of a young girl that was found dumped, almost lifeless, by the road side near a village in Gwoza local government area, sometime in December 2013. She was later found to have injuries in between her legs; she also had a swollen groin. When she later regained consciousness she relayed a gory tale of how over 15 men in a Boko Haram camp have used her in turns until she became worthless to them due to the sore of injuries she sustained as a result of sex she was forced to have.
Halima, a very lucky girl from Gwoza local government area of Borno state was abducted and taken to a camp behind the Gwoza hills camp of the Boko Haram where she was betrothed to a Leader of the group called ‘Amir’ (King). The girl who was a secondary school leaver said she was chosen from amongst other ladies for the Amir because she was judged to be younger and a virgin.
Halima said she had to tag along acting the role of wife of the Amir. She did everything a wife does for a husband, just to survive. One fateful day, Halima woke up reeling in pains, claiming to be suffering from stomach ache. She was actually faking it. She cried all day until the Amir ordered that one of the senior women accompany her to the hospital for treatment.
When Halima and her escort managed to get into some safe zone near a military post, she turned and warned the woman to go back or she would raise alarm, the elderly woman who happened to be a die-hard Boko Haram member had to quickly escape, and Halima made it home through the help of the soldiers.
An aged grandmother, about 65 years old, living in Zajeri area of Maiduguri did not tell anyone her plight in the hands of a notorious Boko Haram gunman popular known as Babakura, until when the members of civilian-JTF arrested him last year. When Babakura was dragged to Zajeri with both hands and legs bundled, where he went to reveal his secret armoury, his presence in the area sparked a shocking controversy. Most widows and aged women came out cursing him and spitting in his face, saying he had forcefully defiled them again and again at gun-point.
The women’s story, according to a leader of the Civilian-JTF, Mallam Idrissa, “was even more pathetic; Babakura was barely 25 years old; that means the 65-year-old woman could be his grandmother. But the woman said, every night, he would jump over the fence into their compound carrying a gun and order them to lie down, and he would rape them forcefully in turns, sometimes he would be accompanied by other people too.”
A man in Bulabulingaranaram, a notorious hideout of Boko Haram in Maiduguri was said to have defied the threat of some Boko Haram gunmen as he could not stand and watch them rape his wife and grown up daughter inside his home. He was shot dead. His wife said he died trying to rescue them, but neither of the women would say if at the end they were still raped.
There may be hundreds of more women out there that have been raped in their homes or in various camps of the Boko Haram; some may have been inflicted with HIV/AIDS, or left with undesirable pregnancies or children which they have to care for alone, or even claim it belongs to their husbands. So many of them have been jaundiced psychologically and may not be able to get remedy till they die.
A United Nations “statistical report compiled from government sources” in 2005 indicated that “more than 250,000 cases of rape or attempted rape were recorded by police annually and this covered 65 countries of the world. This implies that at least 3800 women are being raped in each country; it also implies that at least 105 women are being raped annually in the 36 states of Nigeria. But shockingly, this global figure is being superceded by the quantum of rape women suffer in the ‘holy’ camps of the Boko Haram, where a woman or a girl would be gang-raped by at least seven men in a night.
The concern is that even if the Federal government succeeds in bringing the Boko Haram insurgents to the negotiation table, some ask, “what kind of dialogue would they have with these women, mothers and young girls that would heal their humanity that is deeply injured?”
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