It’s been two years since 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped by the extremist group Boko Haram in the village of Chibok, Nigeria. While the group continues kidnapping more women and girls to keep as slaves, hundreds have been escaped. hears their stories of
MARYAM WAS STROLLING to her family’s farm in the rocky hills behind the northeastern Nigerian town of Gwoza when two Boko Haram ghters blocked her path. The insurgents had overrun the area several months before, ransacking food stores and conscripting young men at gunpoint into raiding homes to extend their control across the region. Women were dragged away to remote camps where they were subjected to forced marriage and rape; some were even brainwashed into becoming suicide bombers. The 20-year-old mother of two had so far kept clear of the militants’ wrath, but on this day, the men each took turns raping her while the other held a machete blade against her neck. Maryam begged to be let go, but she knew resisting could mean death.
After the attack, Maryam was marched to a forest camp, where she would spend the next two months with dozens of women rounded up in mass kidnappings. Though many of the ghters had forcibly taken multiple wives, she became the servant of a group of male teenagers, who were often riled up from days spent looting and killing. They taunted her with machine guns and violated her at will, anonymously, their faces cloaked in black scarves. On the worst days, up to four men took turns with her.
While Boko Haram’s origins and ideology are contested, everyone agrees its persecution of women has been total throughout its campaign to carve out a state ruled by strict Islamic law. The radical militant group is estimated to have abducted at least 2 000 women and girls since 2014, the year it gained global notoriety for kidnapping 2 6 schoolgirls from a dormitory in Chibok, Nigeria, spurring the campaign BringBackOurGirls. Today, most of these women – Christians and Muslims alike – are still held in bush camps, where they endure forced labour, combat, torture and sexual slavery. They are the living casualties of a six-year-old insurgency that has claimed 1 000 lives and displaced more than 2.6 million.
Young girls uprooted by the Boko Haram insurgency study at a temporary school in Yola, Nigeria, where they are taught by volunteer teachers who were also displaced