‘I miss my Boko Haram husband’
Pregnant teenager rescued by soldiers from fundamentalists keeps her baby for the ‘connection’
Almost a year after she was rescued from Boko Haram by the Nigerian army, 16year-old Zara John is still in love with one of the fighters who abducted her. She was delighted to discover that she was pregnant with his child following a urine and blood test carried out by a doctor in the refugee camp to which she was taken after her rescue.
“I wanted to give birth to my child so that I can have someone to replace his father, since I cannot reconnect with him again,” said Zara, one of hundreds of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram during a seven-year insurgency in northeast Nigeria.
But any decision regarding the baby was taken out of her hands.
Zara’s father had drowned during floods in 2010, so her uncles intervened. Some were adamant that they did not want the offspring of Boko Haram in their family – and insisted on an abortion. Others felt the child should not be blamed for his father’s crimes.
In the end, the majority carried the vote and Zara was allowed to keep her child, a son she named Usman, who is now seven months old.
“Everybody in the family has embraced the child,” said Zara in a telephonic interview, asking that her location remain undisclosed. “My uncle just bought him tins of Cerelac [instant cereal] and milk.”
Zara was 14 when Boko Haram members, fighting to establish an Islamic state, raided her village of Izge, northeast Nigeria, in February 2014.
They razed homes in the village, slaughtered men and loaded women, girls and children on to trucks.
Two of Zara’s brothers were out of town when the assailants struck in a wave of hit-and-run attacks on villages, as well as in suicide bombings on places of worship or markets.
Zara’s mother fell off one of the overloaded trucks and tried to chase after the vehicle that was ferrying away her only daughter and four-year-old son, but was unable to keep up as it drove 22km to Bita.
At the time, Bita and other surrounding towns close to the Sambisa Forest were in Boko Haram control.
“As soon as we arrived, they told us we were now their slaves,” recalled Zara.
Her days were spent doing chores and learning the tenets of her new religion, Islam. Two months after her abduction, she was given away in marriage to Ali, a Boko Haram commander, and was moved from a shared house to his accommodation.
“After I became a commander’s wife, I had freedom. I slept any time I wanted; I woke up any time I wanted,” she said.
“He bought me food and clothes and gave me everything that a woman needs from a man,” she said, adding that he also gave her a cellphone and tattooed his name on her stomach to mark her as a Boko Haram wife.
Ali assured her the fight would soon be over and they would return to his home town of Baga, where he intended that his new wife would join his fishing business.
He told her he had abandoned his trade and joined Boko Haram after his father and elder brother, both fishermen like himself, were killed by Nigerian soldiers.
In a June 2015 report based on years of research and analysis, Amnesty International said the Nigerian army was guilty of gross human rights abuses and the extrajudicial killings of civilians in parts of northeastern Nigeria. It called for an investigation into war crimes.
Ali was not at home when the Nigerian army stormed Bita in March and rescued Zara and scores of other women, taking them to a refugee camp in Yola in northeastern Nigeria.
The raid came as international scrutiny on Nigeria increased after the high-profile abduction of 200 schoolgirls from Chibok in northern Nigeria in April 2014, which caused outrage internationally and sparked the global campaign #BringBackOurGirls. The girls are yet to be found.
But Zara and Ali stayed in touch by phone until Nigerian soldiers realised some of the girls in the camp were still in touch with their abductors, seized their phones and moved them to another camp until they were reunited with their families.
– Al Jazeera
SAVED Women and children rescued from Boko Haram extremists by Nigerian soldiers in northeast Nigeria arrive at a military office in Maiduguri, Nigeria, in July last year Republican presidential
candidate Jeb Bush