- Posted May 10, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Decades of Sexual Slavery In Northern Nigeria; What We Must Do Now
In 1987, 12-year-old Hauwa Abubakar was brutally killed because she attempted to resist a forced marriage and sexual assault by a 40-year-old man, Shehu Kiruwa in Bauchi State. Boko Haram’s philosophy can be traced to this history of female rights abuse.
Women had been abducted since the commencement of the current insurgency, but Nigerians were all too busy focusing on the sensations of church bombings, Mosque killings, market raids, village sackings and so on, to notice the rot slowly, surely eating in. Ever since, it has clearly dawned on the world that in this war of terror, women have always been part of the booty.
Data has shown that about 25% of 33 countries in Africa engage in forced marriages, especially in countries bordering Nigeria, including Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Therefore, having existed in socio-cultural settings that promote under-age and\or forced marriages and female servitude, Boko Haram adherents do not think their recent are wildly out of the ordinary.
I recall a video clip that made the rounds recently. A teenager was captured and interrogated on camera. His confessions were quite revealing. He spoke frankly and gave details of the activities of insurgents, including their so called locations and modus operandi. When asked what they did with abducted women, he was very straight. He said “our leaders defile them”. When probed further, he said he too had defiled them. The glaring truth is that these women are often besmirched, not once, not twice, not thrice, but serially and by sundry persons. They are treated as war booties.
In 1987 there was no You Tube. But today, the mass abduction of these girls is accompanied with the impunity of online video terrorism, where Abubakar Shekau is threatens to sell them into slavery. The world is now waking up to a more violent and more publicized manifestation of a long standing trend.
On the night of 14–15 April 2014, a group of militants attacked the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria. They broke into the school, shooting guards. A large number of students were taken away in trucks, possibly into the Sambisa Forest, which is considered to be a refuge for Boko Haram. Houses in Chibok were also burnt down in the incident. The school had been closed for four weeks prior to the attack due to the deteriorating security situation, but students from multiple schools had been called in to take exams in physics.
The children were aged 16 to 18 and were in their final year of school. Initial reports said 85 students were kidnapped in the attack. Over the 19–20th April weekend, the military released a statement that said more than 100 of 129 kidnapped girls had been freed. However, the statement was retracted, and on 21 April, parents said 234 girls were missing.
A number of the kidnapped students had escaped the kidnappers’ custody in two groups. According to the police, approximately 276 children were taken in the attack of which 53 had escaped as of 2 May. Additional reports of missing girls were still coming in at that time.
Rise Of Insurgency
The group Boko Haram, is opposed to what they perceive as the "Westernization" of Nigeria, which they maintain is the root cause of criminal behaviour in the country. Thousands of people have been killed in attacks perpetrated by the group, and the Nigerian federal government declared a state of emergency in May 2013 in Borno State, in its fight against the insurgency.
The resulting crackdown has led to the capture or killing of hundreds of Boko Haram members, with the remainder retreating to mountainous areas from which they have increasingly targeted civilians. However, the campaign has failed to stabilize the country. A French military operation in nearby Mali has also pushed Boko Haram and al-Qaeda terrorists into Nigeria.
Since 2010, Boko Haram has targeted schools, killing hundreds of students. A spokesperson for the group said such attacks would continue, as long as the Nigerian government continued to interfere with traditional Islamic education. It is estimated that about 10,000 children have been unable to attend school as a result of the activities by Boko Haram. Boko Haram has also been known to kidnap girls, who it believes, should not be educated, and use them as cooks or sex slaves.
Boko Haram’s attacks intensified in 2014. In February, the group was reported to have hacked more than 100 Christian men in the villages of Doron Baga and Izghe and slaughtering 59 federal government students, all in northeastern Nigeria. In March, the group also reportedly attacked the Giwa military barracks, freeing captured militants. The present abduction saga occurred equally on the same day as the Nyanya-Abuja bombing attack, in which at least 80 people died. Boko Haram has been blamed for nearly 4,000 deaths in 2014.
Since then, another Nyanya bombing attack has occurred, plus the alleged abduction of another set of school girls aged 12-15, and the mass slaughter of at least 300 residents of the nearby town of Gamboru Ngala on the 5th of May, by Boko Haram militants, after Nigerian security forces had left the town to search for the kidnapped students.
Damage to the school
As if in a cruel bid to add salt to fresh wound, on 5th May, an infamous video in which Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, claimed responsibility for the kidnappings emerged. Shekau claimed that, "Allah instructed me to sell them...I will carry out his instructions." "Slavery is allowed in my religion, and I shall capture people and make them slaves." He said the girls should not have been in the school and should have gotten married. He instead decreed that girls as young as nine are suitable for marriage.
The captured students were subsequently supposedly forced into marriage with members of Boko Haram, with a reputed "bride price" of N2, 000 each. Many of the students were said to been taken to the neighbouring countries of Chad and Cameroun, with sightings reported of the students crossing borders with the militants, and also, sightings of the students by villagers living in the Sambisa Forest
Earlier on 2nd May, the police had said it was still unclear the exact number of students who were kidnapped. On 4th May almost 3 weeks after the incident, President Goodluck Jonathan, made his first public statement about the kidnapping, saying the government was doing everything it could to find the missing girls. Today, at the World Economic Forum on Africa, he said the abduction was the beginning of the end of terrorism in Nigeria.
Trauma And Condemnations
Now back to our Chibok girls. Let’s ask ourselves some questions, questions that demand absolute honesty. Between Chibok and Sambisa, is said to be a distance of well over 100 kilometers. Borno State is under Emergency Rule with Military Units scattered all over the place and road blocks are mounted along all roads at very short intervals. How come over 200 human beings were ferried through that distance without being detected? How come some of the girls escaped and yet their trail did not lead to the others? Why was there a deceit by the army claiming to have recovered 100 girls at the beginning and the Principal who in two separate interviews with Associated Press and Punch, claimed contradictory things? Who was responsible for the initial deception and what actions were taken on the person?
Aside from the demonstrations across Nigeria, there have been countless prayer sessions for the safe return of the abducted girls. But will they return safe and sound? It is unfortunate that the answer is no. If the girls eventually return, as we pray they do, they will surely come back with physiological, emotional, social, as well as psychological traumas.
Physical strain includes pregnancies and diseases such as STDs, HIV/AIDS, and other complications. Psychologically, many if not all, will suffer upheavals. The emotional aspect will see them coming back full of hate