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The Lament Of The Boko Haram ‘Brides’

Salamatu Umar, who was forced to marry a Boko Haram fighter, binds son Usman Abubakar.

Jide Adeniyi-Jones for NPR


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Jide Adeniyi-Jones for NPR

Salamatu Umar, who was forced to marry a Boko Haram fighter, binds son Usman Abubakar.

Jide Adeniyi-Jones for NPR

Salamatu Umar was abducted by Boko Haram in 2014, when she was usually 15. She and 5 other girls were herded in a bush. She was forced to marry a Boko Haram fighter.

She and another lady eventually escaped, using divided while they were collecting firewood for cooking. Umar was profound during a time.

Today, she is 18 and a mom of a 1-year-old son, Usman Abubakar. She survived her “hell” and lives in a replaced people’s stay in Maiduguri, a categorical city in northeastern Nigeria and hearth of Boko Haram.

Umar is giveaway — and nonetheless she is not unequivocally free.

“People call me ‘Boko Haram wife’ to my face,” says Umar. “They contend we am a mom of a torpedo — so how can we be fearful of Boko Haram? They contend my son is a Boko Haram baby.”

Like other girls and immature women who have transient or been rescued, she is training to cope with a tarnish — with a assistance of counseling. Many of a immature women hold in chains by Boko Haram were forced to marry fighters and gimlet them children, says Hauwa Musa Magaji, a psychosocial advisor who works with a United Nations children’s organisation UNICEF.

“There’s a lot of stigma,” she confirms. “So it’s a large plea for us, yes. These girls have no fault. The children, they don’t have fault. We are articulate about a lady that has been abducted, impregnated, and she has given birth to a child. And she’s been supposed behind by a family, nonetheless not her child, not her child.”

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Wearing colorful African imitation wardrobe and a prolonged headband over her head, Umar is open about her possess traumas. “I used to feel it would be improved to be passed than face all this,” she says with a sad air, referring to a name-calling. “I’m commencement to get over it now, nonetheless we still worry.

“I’m always happy when we see my child, nonetheless low down, low inside I’m depressed.

“I have mislaid so much,” she says. “I mislaid my virginity. we have mislaid my friends. we have been attacked of my childhood.” And she wonders, “What male will marry a lady who was once with Boko Haram, even opposite her will?”

As for a supposed matrimony to a Boko Haram insurgent, she says, “I don’t cruise him my father because, in a tradition, your kin and family have to declare a matrimony and give their blessing.”

Then she has second thoughts. “I suspect it is matrimony of sorts, since we have a baby now. But that doesn’t make it a correct marriage.” Umar looks down during her baby child and smiles.

The former abducted teen mom is from Damboa, a city in Nigeria’s northeast, that was overshoot by a insurgents. She describes an strenuous life in a Sambisa Forest, Boko Haram’s hideout where a nonconformist organisation gathering a thousands of people a fighters kidnapped, including some Chibok schoolgirls, seized in 2014.

Umar baked and spotless residence for many people, detached from her “husband.” She says she didn’t adore him and had no choice nonetheless to marry him, nonetheless “he was a good man, nonetheless misguided,” she says indulgently, and she forgives him.

Asked possibly she common his nonconformist beliefs — that Western preparation is sinful, girls should not go to propagandize and that girls and boys should follow usually Islamic training — this was Umar’s reply. “He told me fasten Boko Haram meant a approach track to heaven, so anybody vital with them in a timberland would certainly go to paradise, so come and join them.”

“Did we trust him?” we ask. “No, no, we did not,” she shoots behind emphatically.

Magaji, a counselor, introduced me to another immature lady who suffered during a hands of Boko Haram and described herself as a worker for partial of her time in captivity. Esther Bitrus, now 20, was in high propagandize in her hometown, Vava, when she was kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014.

Esther Bitrus, 20, and daughter, Rebecca. She opted to marry a Boko Haram commander, rather than be sole again as a slave.

Jide Adeniyi-Jones for NPR


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Jide Adeniyi-Jones for NPR

Esther Bitrus, 20, and daughter, Rebecca. She opted to marry a Boko Haram commander, rather than be sole again as a slave.

Jide Adeniyi-Jones for NPR

Bitrus says she was hold serf with dual Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped in a mass abduction in 2014.

“We were 3 in one house. Two Chibok girls and me. And we were changed from place to place. Then they sole one of a girls and afterwards they sole us. Yes,” remembers a energetic Bitrus, who spasmodic breaks into English, nonetheless she prefers to respond to my questions in Hausa, a informal language.

Bitrus, who is Christian, says she was sole to a Boko Haram commander by another commander — Aliu — who was in assign of Gwoza, a chair of a apprehension network’s ephemeral “caliphate.” Ultimately she was married off to another commander, Galadima, who became her husband, she says. Bitrus is not certain how most he paid for her.

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Before that, “it was a life of grind for a year and 3 months,” remembers Bitrus. She was doing all a domestic work in a Muslim household, that enclosed wives who she says did zero nonetheless credit her — their worker — of sleeping with their husband.

“Then a wives told their husband, ‘No some-more slaves in this house,’ ” says Bitrus. ” ‘You possibly sell her or marry her off to someone else.’ “

Her problems were compounded, she says, when one mom held her kneeling in Christian worship, observant prayers and fasting in recklessness during her predicament. “I was beaten by a husband,” says Bitrus, “and my life was threatened, with a warning if we continued to urge that way.”

“When that mom reported me, a father pronounced if we didn’t stop a Christian prayers, we would be killed,” says Bitrus.

That is when she motionless she contingency shun labour and marry a Boko Haram commander, who was after killed by a opposition coterie within a group.

Months after, Bitrus and a organisation of other Boko Haram “wives” and “widows” were discovered by a Nigerian army.

Now she is giveaway again. Bitrus wants to collect adult where she left off during high school, reunite with her parents, who are now replaced opposite Nigeria’s limit in Cameroon, and lift her baby Rebecca.

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The teen Boko Haram “bride” Salamatu Umar was in a Quranic preparation complement before Boko Haram captivity. She wants to go to propagandize and learn English — and concentration on her tot son, Usman, she says, “to make certain he grows adult a good Nigerian citizen.”

Both these women have been supposed behind by their particular families, even nonetheless they’re now replaced and vital in camps in Maiduguri and are not nonetheless behind with their relatives.

But many girls and women who’ve been abducted by Boko Haram and afterwards have transient or been liberated are still grappling with influence and jeers by others, like Umar and, to an extent, Bitrus. Some families and communities have deserted such returnees, forcing them to find their possess approach outward a multitude they know, with small possibility of reintegration.

Camps of replaced persons all over northeastern Nigeria are peopled with this lost group. Its unknown members keep to themselves, keep their heads low and conflict to tarry with their offspring, says Magaji, a psychosocial counselor. Sympathetic to their cause, Magaji says, Nigerian multitude contingency do better. Otherwise a girls and women are doubly punished — pang as captives and afterwards shunned by their community.

“Rejecting them will poise another danger,” says Magaji. “When we reject such a immature girl, she possibly lives on a travel or someone takes her divided and she has another pregnancy.”

The babies face an capricious destiny as well. “You know a African approach of life?” says Magaji. “You have to know your grandfather. You have to know your grandfather’s father. So this is a genuine problem.” She wants a supervision to “sponsor them to assistance in their preparation this is what we are seeking for.”

The dual immature women we met have not given adult hope.

“There are other girls in a stay like me,” Salamatu Umar says. “But nobody is holding caring of us. There are other girls like me who are complaining.”

I ask possibly she would cruise apropos a spokeswoman.

“I hear you,” she says. “Yes, we can do it.”