Rape: Boko Haram’s dom­i­na­tion strat­egy

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

DALORI — Hun­dreds of women and girls cap­tured by Boko Haram have been raped, many re­peat­edly, in what of­fi­cials and re­lief work­ers de­scribe as a de­lib­er­ate strat­egy to dom­i­nate ru­ral res­i­dents and pos­si­bly even cre­ate a new gen­er­a­tion of Is­lamist mil­i­tants in Nige­ria.

In in­ter­views, the women de­scribed be­ing locked in houses by the dozen, at the beck and call of fighters who forced them to have sex, some­times with the spe­cific goal of im­preg­nat­ing them.

“They mar­ried me,” said Ham­satu (25) a young woman in a black-and­pur­ple head scarf, look­ing down at the ground.

“She said she was four months preg­nant, that the fa­ther was a Boko Haram mem­ber and that she had been forced to have sex with other mil­i­tants who took con­trol of her town.

“They chose the ones they wanted to marry,” added Ham­satu, whose full name was not used to pro­tect her iden­tity.

“If any­body shouts, they said they would shoot them.”

Boko Haram, a rad­i­cal Is­lamist sect that has taken over large stretches of ter­ri­tory in the coun­try’s north­east, has long tar­geted women, round­ing them up as it cap­tures towns and vil­lages.

Women and girls have been given to Boko Haram fighters for “mar­riage,” a eu­phemism for the sex­ual vi­o­lence that oc­curs even when unions are cloaked in reli­gion.

Now, dozens of newly-freed women and girls, many of them preg­nant and bat­tered, are show­ing up at a sprawl­ing camp for the dis­placed out­side the Borno State cap­i­tal, Maiduguri, as Nige­rian sol­diers and other mil­i­tary forces try to push Boko Haram out of nearby ter­ri­tory it has oc­cu­pied for much of the past year.

The full hu­man toll of that oc­cu­pa­tion is only now emerg­ing. More than 15 000 peo­ple have sought shel­ter at the camp, at an aban­doned fed­eral of­fice-worker train­ing cen­tre, most of them women, re­lief of­fi­cials said.

Over 200 have so far been found to be preg­nant, but re­lief of­fi­cials be­lieve many more are bear­ing the un­wanted chil­dren of Boko Haram mil­i­tants.

“The sect lead­ers make a very con­scious ef­fort to im­preg­nate the women,” said the Borno gover­nor, Kashim Shet­tima.

“Some of them, I was told, even pray be­fore mat­ing, of­fer­ing sup­pli­ca­tions for God to make the prod­ucts of what they are do­ing be­come chil­dren that will in­herit their ide­ol­ogy.”

The mil­i­tants have openly promised to treat women as chat­tel. Af­ter Boko Haram mil­i­tants kid­napped nearly 300 school­girls from the vil­lage of Chi­bok last year, the group’s leader called them slaves and threat­ened to “sell them in the mar­ket.”

“We would marry them out at the age of nine,” the leader, Abubakar Shekau, said in a video mes­sage soon af­ter the girls were ab­ducted, prompt­ing the global “Bring Back Our Girls” cam­paign. “We would marry them out at the age of 12.”

As the group has lost con­trol of towns and thou­sands of peo­ple have fled in re­cent weeks, a grim pic­ture of that treat­ment has emerged: hun­dreds of women and girls as young as 11 sub­jected to sys­tem­atic, or­gan­ised sex­ual vi­o­lence.

Ya­hauwa (30) used her green head scarf to wipe away tears as she clutched a plas­tic bag full of medicine. She had just tested pos­i­tive for HIV.

“Is it from the peo­ple who forced me to have af­fairs with them?” she asked a re­lief worker, tears stream­ing down her face.

Later, she ex­plained that she and many other women had been “locked in one big room”.when they came, they would se­lect the one they wanted to sleep with,” she said. “They said, ‘If you do not marry us, we will slaugh­ter you.’ ”

As the women spoke, two trucks crammed with more peo­ple ar­rived at the rudi­men­tary camp guarded by watch­ful sol­diers. Even the lo­cal news me­dia is kept out.

Many of the res­i­dents of the camp spend the day out­side in blaz­ing 100-de­gree-plus heat. They dare not re­turn home.

Six years ago, Nige­rian se­cu­rity forces clashed vi­o­lently with Boko Haram mem­bers, and the group has been wag­ing un­remit­ting war against the fed­eral gov­ern­ment ever since.

It re­cently de­clared al­le­giance to the Is­lamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and its suc­cesses over the years con­trib­uted sub­stan­tially to the de­feat of Good­luck Jonathan, in a March pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Thou­sands have been killed in Boko Haram’s war against the Nige­rian state, of­ten characterised by the in­dis­crim­i­nate slaugh­ter of civil­ians.

Boko Haram is now on the retreat, but the coun­try­side is not se­cure. Peo­ple from sev­eral towns said the mil­i­tants had not been de­feated, as the Nige­rian mil­i­tary main­tains, but had sim­ply fled as troops ad­vanced with su­pe­rior fire­power.

In­deed, Maiduguri it­self, a city of more than two mil­lion, came un­der attack again from Boko Haram last week.

The mil­i­tants tried to storm a mil­i­tary base and were pushed back only af­ter hours of what res­i­dents said was heavy shoot­ing by the mil­i­tary.

On Satur­day, a sui­cide bomber, a young girl, killed at least seven peo­ple in nearby Da­maturu, and of­fi­cials said the in­sur­gents had re­cap­tured the town of Marte.

The attack on Maiduguri was at least the third such attack on the state cap­i­tal this year.

The hu­mil­i­a­tion of what the refugees have been through led many of the women in­ter­viewed at the camp to deny be­ing abused by the mil­i­tants.

But re­lief work­ers here said that when they ar­rived, many ac­knowl­edged that they had been raped.

Fanna, a del­i­cate 12-year-old who had ar­rived at the camp three days be­fore, crouched on the floor, clasp­ing her knees, and in­sisted in her thin child’s voice that Boko Haram had not touched her.

Re­lief of­fi­cials said that in her camp en­try in­ter­view, she, too, had said she was raped by the mil­i­tants.

Now, many of­fi­cials worry about the long-term health ef­fects of the abuse. — NY Times.

A Red Cross of­fi­cial takes data from women and chil­dren res­cued by Nige­rian sol­diers from Boko Haram ex­trem­ists at Sam­bisa For­est rest at a refugee camp in Yola, Nige­ria on 4 May.

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