One of the women freed by soldiers from Boko Haram’s captivity, Meriam, 36, has narrated how the sect fighters trained and prepared girls and women for suicide missions.
Meriam, who had just arrived at one of the internally displaced persons’ camp in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital from Gwoza, revealed this to the New York Times.
She narrated how she was imprisoned with dozens of other women including some who were being trained as suicide bombers.
According to her, the suicide bomber after being brainwashed, will be assured of Allah’s forgiveness after death.
“The Boko Haram would recite the prayer for the dead,” Meriam said. “Then they would put on the hijab,” covering the suicide belt.
After they had prepared, “They said, ‘God will forgive us,’” she said. “Then, they would enter the vehicles, and they would send the women away.”
Meriam said she had seen a few of the Chibok village girls at the hospital in Gwoza, and said that the Boko Haram appeared to give them a special status.
The New York Times also reported that hundreds of women and girls captured by Boko Haram had been raped, many repeatedly, in what officials and relief workers described as a deliberate strategy to dominate rural residents and possibly even create a new generation of Islamist militants in the country
In interviews, the women described being locked in houses by the dozen, at the beck and call of fighters who forced them to have s*x, sometimes with the specific goal of impregnating them.
“They married me,” said Hamsatu, 25, a young woman in a black-and-purple 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 s*x 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.”
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 H.I.V.
“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 are kept out.
Many of the residents of the camp spend the day outside in blazing 100-degree-plus heat here. They dare not return home.
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.
Yana, a young woman wearing sparkling golden bangles, said the fighters had “parked” her – a word many women have used to describe their imprisonment – with about 50 other women in a house in Bama, Borno State’s second city, with a population of several hundred thousand. Bama was occupied by Boko Haram last September.
Inside the house, “If they want to have an affair with a woman, they will just take her to a private place, so that the others won’t see,” said Yana in a singsong voice. She could not recall her age; a relief worker at the camp here said she had been raped so often by Boko Haram that she was “psychologically affected.”
Yana said the militants had forced her to have s*x with them.
Her feet and stomach were swollen and the relief worker said she was likely pregnant, though her test results had not come back yet. Others workers here said many of the women had signs of physical and psychological trauma from being raped repeatedly.
Fanna, a delicate 12-year-old who had arrived at the camp here 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.
“The sect leaders make a very conscious effort to impregnate the women,” said the Borno State 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.”
“It’s like they wanted to have their own siblings, to take over from them,” added Abba Mohammed Bashir Shuwa, a senior state official in Maiduguri.
A relief official at the camp who is working closely with the abused women echoed that thought. “We are going to have another set of Boko Haram,” said the official, Hadiza Waziri. “Most of these women now, they don’t want these pregnancies. You cannot love the child.”
The militants have openly promised to treat women as chattel. After Boko Haram militants kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls from Chibok last year, the group’s leader called them slaves and threatened to “sell them in the market.”