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'We can't trust any of them': Surviving Boko Haram sex slaves tell their terrifying stories (WARNING: DISTURBING CONTENT)

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'They have become useful tools.'

Two women, 15-year-old Halima and 25-year-old Hamsatu, speak of their captivity and forced marriages to Boko Haram men.

Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >


4/4/2016 (4 years ago)

Published in Africa

Keywords: Boko Haram, sex, slaves, women, Hamsatu, Halima

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The women and girls used as sex slaves were as young as only 8-years-old and were forced to live in small thatched huts in the middle of a forest. If they tried to run, they were returned to their huts and raped again and again.

Anyone who resisted too much was shot and killed.

The past twelve months have seen much activity in Nigeria's military, with several operations leading to the liberation of thousands of women and girls.

Unfortunately, most return to nothing but the remains of a burned city. With nowhere else to turn, the women are collected and left in displacement camps or abandoned buildings, where armed military members keep them under surveillance.

Though most would welcome their lost sisters, terrorist organization Boko Haram made their wives notorious by indoctrinating them and forcing them to set off suicide bombs in populated areas. Now, any escapees are ostracized and treated as second-class citizens - even by other women.

Two survivors, Halima and Hamsatu -both using pseudonyms, explained how they were treated. One older woman recently spat, "You're the one who was married to Boko Haram" to 15-year-old Halima.

A guard explained, "We can't trust any of them."

Hamsatu, who shares a tent with the child of one of her rapists and Halima, stated, "There is no trust here."

Both Hamsatu and Halima lived in Bama, near the Cameroonian border. In September 2014, the majority of the city's 350,000 residents fled Boko Haram, but those who could not escape were killed or enslaved by the terrorist group.

Hamsatu and Halima were taken as slaves with roughly 25 other women. They were forced to travel on foot or the backs of  motorcycles to Sambisa Forest, where Boko Haram had already prepared camps for its sex slaves.

Each woman was assigned to a tiny hut that was just big enough for a single person to lie down. Hamsatu shared that she spent a few days in the hut when a man approached her and spoke in what she believes was Arabic. He then told her they were now married and raped her. 

He was not the only man who came to her hut and she was brutally raped every night. They would angrily scream at her for not praying enough and one man told her, "Even Chibok girls are better Muslims than you."

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Hamsatu was a married woman before her enslavement. They were separated the day Boko Haram took Bama. "I don't know if he's alive," she admitted.

Two months of rape led to Hamsatu becoming pregnant. When she discovered her situation, she attempted to run away several times but was always captured and returned. When her stomach began to show, Hamsatu decided to stop running.

When the Nigerian military finally made its way to the sex camp, women reported soldiers burning huts with women still inside, described how they opened fire on everyone - not just Boko Haram - and how the operation resulted in several women killed or reported missing.

In the confusion a 3-year-old girl lost her mother, who was later reported as a missing person. Halima took the girl, Fatima, and was loaded into a pickup truck. They drove about 50 miles from the sex camp then were told to evacuate the truck.

The women were then searched for weapons. It was at that moment they realized they were not being rescued so much as being collected and relocated.

When they arrived at the Dalori displacement camp in April last year, citizens called them the "Sambisa women," named for the forest they were held captive.

Different women who were held under Boko Haram are removed from the camp from questioning then returned every day. 

The fear is that they've been converted to Boko Haram's ideology," Mohammed Ali Guja, the chairman of Bama city, stated. "They are now a different person."

Ann Darman, of the UN-allied Nigerian aid group Gender Equality, Peace and Development Center, said, "The simple truth is they pose a serious threat to the general public."

Even children remain suspects. Boko Haram has used children as young as 9-year-old to carry out suicide bombing attacks.

"We think they have more or less brainwashed these children," Maj. Gen. Lucky Irabor, the top Nigerian military official in the northeast, stated. "They have become useful tools."

Rachel Harvey, UNICEF's head of child protection in Nigeria, explained people believe children get their father's temperament and mindset as it is their father's blood that courses through their veins, "so that at some point in the future they will likely turn against their own community."

Halima admitted she is always aware of how other people see her. When she goes to collect food donated by Nigeria's government aid agency, people sometimes inch away from her, as if she may attempt to attack them.

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She never wanted to be a mother, but Halima has been caring for Fatima in place of the girl's real mother who remains missing. 

Martin Ejidike, a human rights advisor in the United Nations stationed in Nigeria, explained: "Subjecting [the victims] to further discrimination and ill treatment due to their status as victims of Boko Haram violence is certain to undermine the entire response to the situation in the northeast."

With continued bombings at the hands of brainwashed or threatened Boko Haram wives, the ostracization of survivors will likely remain unchanged.

Survivors must band together and attend group therapy sessions to convince themselves they are safe. Halima and Hamsatu admitted some are unable to cope and "down bottles of homemade cough syrup to get deliriously high alone."

Please pray for the survivors of Boko Haram's disgusting sexual appetite, which has been described as a calculated "tactic of terror." Pray for their integration and for an end to the perusal of hate-fueled religious gain.


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