Dozens of former Boko Haram survivors tell the horrific details of the abuse they were subjected to while in captivity. They described the physical and psychological abuse they were subjected to at the hands of the Islamic militants in interviews with the Human Rights Watch. The HRW released the details of their interviews in a 63-page report outline the horrors the girls faced titled “Those Terrible Weeks in their Camp.”
According to the Daily Mail, survivors told stories of daily rape, forced marriage, torture and fighting on the frontlines against their will. One captive who was only 15-years-old said she was “raped every night” after she was forced into marriage to a man that was more than twice her age.
“After we were declared married I was ordered to live in his cave but I always managed to avoid him. He soon began to threaten me with a knife to have sex with him and when I still refused he brought out his gun, warning that he would kill me if I shouted. Then he began to rape me every night. He was a huge man in his mid-30s and I had never had sex before. It was very painful and I cried bitterly because I was bleeding afterwards.”
Another victim, just 19-years-old, noted that she was forced to participate in military attacks with the insurgents. She says she was forced to hold bullets for the Boko Haram fighters; they would come to her when they needed to replenish their bullet stock. When the fight got closer she was dragged across the grass as the insurgents fled to their camp. She said she was also handed a knife on one occasion and told to kill a captured civilian.
“I was shaking with horror and couldn’t do it. The camp leader’s wife took the knife and killed him.”
The HRW report notes that the kidnappings may not be random. While some of the women and girls seemed to have been taken arbitrarily, the majority appeared to have been targeted for abduction because they were students, Christians, or both.
Most of the abductions documented in this report took place in the predominantly Christian area of southern Borno State, and all but one of the victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch were Christian. All of the girls that the watch group interviewed were Christian except for one. Thus, the victims appear to have been targeted either because of their presumed religious affiliation or for attending western-styled schools. Some of the victims were threatened with death if they refused to convert to Islam.
The group also notes that many of the accounts are watered-down due to the culture of the region. They note that particularly the rape of women and girls abducted by Boko Haram has been underreported because of a culture of silence, stigma and shame around sexual abuse in Nigeria’s conservative North.
Since Boko Haram began seizing citizens, the report indicates it is believed that over 500 people have been abducted by the militant group. The Nigerian government claims to be in talks with Boko Haram over a ceasefire agreement that would include the released of hundreds of schoolgirls. However, amidst talks, Boko Haram abducted an additional 25 girls from a small village. Therefore, it has left many in the community skeptical that an agreement would be met.