Although the Nigerian government recently claimed Boko Haram would release the 219 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped earlier this year, the captives have not been freed. And the Islamic militant group has continued to abduct more women and girls, primarily from Christian villages. A new report sheds light on the horror of their captivity.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international organization devoted to exposing human rights abuse, released a report called “Those Terrible Weeks in Their Camp” on Oct. 27, detailing Boko Haram’s brutality. The report’s authors interviewed many escaped kidnapping victims, witnesses, social workers, religious leaders, journalists, and others experts.
The report confirmed female hostages experienced forced marriages, sexual abuse including rape, beatings and other violence, servitude, and even compulsory participation in military operations.
A 15-year-old said she was raped nightly at gunpoint by the man she was forced marry. A 19-year-old said she was ordered to slit the throat of a man after being forced to lure several into a trap. “I was shaking with horror and couldn’t do it,” she recalled.
One teenage girl who was abducted with several others said after the Islamic militants learned they were students they said, “So you are the ones with the strong-heads who insist on attending school when we have said ‘boko’ is ‘haram.’ We will kill you here today.”
In addition to targeting school children, the report confirmed the Islamic militants target Christians for kidnapping and often released Muslims. Some survivors told HRW they converted or pretended to convert to Islam in order to secure release or better treatment.
“I was dragged to the camp leader who told me the reason I was brought to the camp was because we Christians worship three gods,” one Christian woman said. “When I objected to his claim, he tied a rope around my neck and beat me with a plastic cable until I almost passed out. An insurgent who I recognized from my village convinced me to accept Islam lest I should be killed. So I agreed.”
The group has kidnapped at least 500 women and children from northern Nigeria since 2009, and has killed more than 7,000 civilians, HRW estimated. The militants also kidnapped men or boys to fight for them and individuals with special skills needed in their camps.
“I find this report especially interesting in light of the recent announcements (which have been somewhat disputed) of a cease fire agreement that was supposed to lead to the freeing of the Chibok girls. It remains to be seen if that agreement was real or merely a political stunt or form of trickery,” said Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs (VOM). USA Today reported on Saturday that Boko Haram denied any truce agreement, saying the girls had converted and been married off.
Among its many recommendations, HRW called for better medical and mental health care for traumatized victims.
“The Chibok tragedy and #BringBackOurGirls campaign focused much-needed global attention to the horrific vulnerability of girls in northeastern Nigeria,” Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in the report. “Now the Nigerian government and its allies need to step up their efforts to put an end to these brutal abductions and provide for the medical, psychological, and social needs of the women and girls who have managed to escape.”
Nettleton said Voice of the Martyrs is providing assistance and treatment to several survivors: “They bear scars both physically and emotionally from the abuse they suffered.” He also encouraged Christians to pray for Nigeria and especially for Christians living in fear of abduction there.
Courtesy: WORLD News Service
Photo courtesy: Think Stock
Publication date: November 11, 2014