ABOVE: Nigeria’s Foreign Minister said on Monday that negotiations to free over 200 girls kidnapped by Islamic extremists were still ongoing
Rape, forced marriage and participation in armed conflict were among the abuses faced by women and girls held in captivity by Boko Haram militants, according to a report released Monday.
New York-based Human Rights Watched (HRW) released findings Monday of interviews with 30 women and girls — including 12 of the nearly 300 girls kidnapped earlier this year in the northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok — who were taken hostage between April 2013 and April 2014.
Fifty-seven girls escaped following the high-profile attack on the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School, while 219 remain missing. HRW estimated more than 500 women and girls have been kidnapped by the Islamist militant group since it began fighting a brutal insurgency against the Nigerian government in 2009.
“One of them raped me,” a woman identified as “Gloria” said. She was kidnapped along with her three-month-old baby this past April. She told HRW her pleas to be spared were ignored and she was ordered to put her daughter down so she could be sexually assaulted.
Another victim shared how she was forced to be a part of the extremist group’s armed conflict.
“At first, my job in the camp was to cook for the 14-man group until a month later when I was taken along for an operation. I was told to hold the bullets and lie in the grass while they fought. They came to me for extra bullets as the fight continued during the day. When security forces arrived at the scene and began to shoot at us, I fell down in fright. The insurgents dragged me along on the ground as they fled back to camp,” a 19-year-old told HRW of her three-month captivity in 2013.
She told how she was given a knife and ordered to slit the throat of a captive man, brought back to the camp from the battlefield.
“I was shaking with horror and couldn’t do it. The camp leader’s wife took the knife and killed him.”
The HRW report, titled Those Terrible Weeks in Their Camp: Boko Haram Violence Against Women and Girls in North-east Nigeria, claimed the Nigerian government allotted some resources to counsel the girls who escaped but not for the dozens of other kidnapping victims.
Since escaping to freedom, the Chibok students who spoke with HRW revealed their fears of being abducted again. But the counselling they were given amounted to not much more than “religion-based” speeches.
“We were all in a big hall, with many people that we did not know. It was when one of the speakers quoted from the Bible that I knew he was a pastor but I cannot remember what he said. As he finished his talk, the microphone was handed to a man dressed like a Muslim preacher, who also recited some Islamic words. Some other people also spoke. No one asked us any questions. I don’t think any of my school mates realized either that we were being counseled,” one of the girls recounted.
But victims of other abductions didn’t receive that much counselling, the report said, or any sort medical care.
“My church community paid for my physical checkup at the hospital. So at least I know I don’t have any physical damage. They also took my blood but I don’t know what they tested it for, ” a 19-year-old rape victim said.
The report comes as more suspected mass kidnappings have been carried out in Borno state, where Chibok is located, and neighbouring Adamawa state.
At least 70 women and teenage girls and boys have been abducted since Oct. 18, the day after the Nigerian government claimed it had agreed to a ceasefire with Boko Haram.