Nigeria’s Chibok women kidnapping: 10 years later, a battle to maneuver on | Boko Haram


Maiduguri, Nigeria – It has been practically a yr since 26-year-old Rabiat left the Boko Haram enclave she was held in for near a decade.

In her dwelling in Maiduguri, the northeast Nigerian metropolis on the coronary heart of 15 years of preventing by the armed group, the mom of three ruminated on life as a free girl.

Rabiat, whose title has been modified for her security, was considered one of 276 women kidnapped by Boko Haram fighters from their college within the city of Chibok on the night time of April 14, 2014, in what was Nigeria’s most high-profile mass abduction case.

About 90 of them are nonetheless lacking. Fifty-seven escaped as they have been being carted off to the group’s base within the huge, ungoverned Sambisa Forest 60km (40 miles) southeast of Maiduguri.

From 2016 to 2017, 108 have been rescued by the Nigerian army or freed by way of prisoner swaps whereas about 20 extra, together with Rabiat, returned previously two years.

Like many others who’ve escaped harrowing circumstances in Boko Haram hideouts, the girls-turned-women now face a special sort of problem: the battle to restart their lives when a lot has modified.

A Christian teenager when she was taken, Rabiat was pressured to change into Muslim and married off, first to at least one fighter after which one other. She was pressured to change into a mom too: Her son is seven, and her daughters are 5 and two years previous.

When the management of the Boko Haram faction that held her captive crumbled and her alternative to go away the forest offered itself final yr, Rabiat seized it and surrendered to the Nigerian military.

“I left as a result of Boko Haram had issues and have been preventing [with each other],” she stated in her native Hausa language, explaining how some hostages took that as an opportunity to flee captivity.

Recently freed Chibok girl stands with Borno governor Babagana Zulum
A freed Chibok schoolgirl and her daughter are welcomed by Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum, centre, in Maiduguri [File: Borno State House via AP]

Like others related to the armed group, she accomplished a three-month “deradicalisation” programme in Bullumkutu camp, considered one of three websites in Maiduguri the place hundreds are being taught societal values and vocational abilities like stitching. About 150,000 “repentant” Boko Haram members who’ve surrendered to the military are additionally individuals within the programme.

After that, Rabiat was moved to a big compound in an prosperous space of Maiduguri with greater than a dozen different so-called Chibok women. The ladies are beneath surveillance, their each transfer monitored – possible as a result of peculiarity of their case. Along with their lodging, the Borno State authorities pays them a stipend of 30,000 naira ($24) month-to-month and has promised them their very own properties.

Nevertheless, getting again to regular life has been troublesome, Rabiat stated.

“Individuals insult us some days. They’re calling my youngsters ‘youngsters of Boko Haram’. It’s so painful. My coronary heart can’t endure it.”

Ignoring the unfavourable feedback – typically from directors working the compound or from folks residing within the neighbourhood – is tough, she stated.

Fatima Abubakar, nation lead for Search For Widespread Floor (SFCG), a nonprofit that gives psychosocial help to girls and kids beforehand held hostage by Boko Haram, stated these reactions may cause lasting psychological well being injury.

“I fear about what this can do to the youngsters,” Abubakar stated. “I’m a mom of three myself, and I understand how constructive and unfavourable reinforcement impacts youngsters. These reactions have a manner of creating youngsters query the adults round them and begin to stay of their minds.

“We have to make sure the ambiance isn’t considered one of negativity for them.”

Focusing on susceptible schoolchildren

The Chibok kidnapping was not the primary Boko Haram assault on college students in Nigeria, nevertheless it was the primary mass abduction of schoolchildren, and the response nationwide was considered one of horror.

International backlash adopted too as hundreds of individuals around the globe, together with then-United States first girl Michelle Obama, protested beneath the #BringBackOurGirls motion. A lot anger was directed on the Nigerian authorities of former President Goodluck Jonathan, who was seen as too gradual to react within the rapid aftermath of the kidnapping.

Protesters hold banners with missing Chibok girls
Individuals participate in a march in Abuja as a part of the Carry Again Our Ladies marketing campaign [File: Olamikan Gbemiga/AP]

Boko Haram, which seeks to create a caliphate in northeast Nigeria, is especially against Western-style schooling, particularly for women and girls. Its title loosely interprets as “schooling is sinful”.

Its kidnapping of the Chibok women, who have been aged 16 to 18, laid the groundwork for Nigeria’s ongoing college abductions epidemic. Greater than 1,400 youngsters have been kidnapped in a decade.

In-fighting between Boko Haram and a faction that break up off from it, the Islamic State West Africa Province, has weakened the group.

When Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau was killed in 2021, hundreds of his fighters have been pressured to give up to the Nigerian military and a Borno authorities eager on increasing a “reconciliation and reintegration” programme that it says will deliver lasting peace.

A few third of the lacking Chibok college students are believed to have died in captivity. Many defiant hostages who refused to be married to Boko Haram fighters are believed to have been pressured into sexual slavery, home servitude or used as suicide bombers.

The Nigerian authorities has largely moved on, beset by competing points, together with the kidnapping of hundreds of different girls and kids additionally kidnapped by armed factions or legal teams throughout northern Nigeria.

Mother and father of lacking girls grief-stricken

A few of the mother and father of the lacking nonetheless maintain on to hope that their daughters will at some point return, however others have given up.

“Over 30 of them are useless,” stated Ayuba Alamson, a spokesman for the mother and father, giving a quantity that doesn’t embody 11 who have been killed in Boko Haram assaults in November 2014.

A freed Chibok girl cries telling her story
A lady who escaped Boko Haram captivity attends a Carry Again Our Ladies vigil in Abuja in 2016 [File: Andrew Harnik/AP]

Alamson’s ward – Hadiza Kwakii, a late sister’s daughter – was a type of who escaped within the month after their seize from Chibok.

Alamson stated for these whose youngsters haven’t returned, nonetheless, grief is ever-present.

“They died due to this. Plenty of them are nonetheless affected by trauma and anxieties, and life is bitter and irritating. We’re asking the Nigerian authorities to do their greatest to free all of the remaining women,” he stated.

For folks within the largely Christian Chibok whose youngsters have returned, there’s a completely different form of loss.

Final yr, after visiting her mother and father for the primary time since she escaped captivity, Rabiat had an enormous argument with them. Her father, she stated, was so offended that she was selecting to stay a Muslim that he lower her off.

“I don’t wish to depart Islam. I’d relatively die,” she stated.

Her choice to remain married to the Boko Haram commander she persuaded to go away the group’s forest hideouts and give up to the military has additionally irked her mother and father.

“We love one another, and he’s good to me,” stated Rabiat, who’s pregnant with a fourth baby.

She was pressured to marry the commander 9 years in the past, a few yr after her kidnapping. Though he’s at the moment present process an extended “deradicalisation” programme, he visits Rabiat typically.

“Individuals anticipate us to go away our husbands and go for an additional man after bearing three youngsters, some even 4? We don’t see the great in that for us,” she stated.

Sculptures depicting missing Nigerian girls
Sculptures created by French artist Prune Nourry, Impressed by historic Nigerian Ife terracotta heads, signify the remaining Chibok college students nonetheless lacking [File: Sunday Alamba/AP]

Not the identical women who have been kidnapped

A number of returned girls additionally pressured to marry fighters echoed Rabiat’s sentiment in native media studies.

Abubakar of SFCG says it isn’t uncommon for former hostages to reject separation from the life they led for years. Boko Haram fighters, she stated, painted a special actuality for the ladies through the years, and undoing that won’t be simple.

“It’s not a likelihood that [these women] could not come again the identical folks they as soon as have been. It’s an absolute,” Abubakar stated, declaring that the necessity to survive throughout their captivity might make hostages extra prepared to purchase into different narratives.

“These males gave them the false notion of security. They allow them to assume they’re girls of honour serving males of honour, however the trauma of what occurred dawns after – when the neighborhood lets them know that what occurred to them was horrible, after they say their youngsters have unhealthy blood.

“We have to be compassionate and provides [the women] time to find out what path they need for themselves going ahead,” she stated.

A few of the mother and father blame the Borno authorities partly for his or her daughters’ “indoctrination”.

One group of about 16 returnee Chibok college students was allotted the identical residing quarters as their fighter husbands, implying that the authorities accredited of their unions and displeasing their mother and father, Alamson stated.


Apart from, the spokesman added, the Borno authorities should have enrolled the ladies in formal colleges as an alternative of giving them casual vocational coaching and letting them keep idle. Though a few of the girls have informed him they’d not return to Western schooling, there are alternate options, he stated.

“In the event that they’ll find yourself like that, simply getting abilities acquisition coaching, then the primary goal [of their freedom] is defeated,” Alamson asserted. “There are establishments the place they’ll examine and change into professors of true Islam. Let the federal government ship them there.”

Disparities between what the freed girls need for themselves and what their mother and father need for them are additional heightened by authorities who largely assume what they need, Abubakar stated.

“I perceive the necessity to compensate for all of the years misplaced, however we would not be offering what every particular person wants. We have to know what are their aspirations, what does peace imply to them.”

Authorities additionally must acknowledge the necessity the ladies’s’ households have for trauma help as effectively, she stated.

Rabiat needs to additional her schooling. Regardless of all that has occurred, she nonetheless holds onto fragments of long-held desires of being a health care provider. However with the talents she has now, being a health care provider isn’t lifelike, she stated.

“I discovered the way to sew, so I can do tailoring for now,” she stated. “My focus now could be that I simply need my youngsters to review and do effectively.”

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