Life As Boko Haram Captives in Nigeria
Two women, who have escaped the horrors of living in a Boko Haram camp, recently spoke to Al Jazeera:
Mercy is a 24 year-old Christian and single mother who grew up in Gulak. When Boko Haram invaded the town last September, Mercy took her baby and ran for the mountains to hide with a group of other people. They lived there for two months, but Mercy occasionally sneaked back into town to look for food.
Early one morning, she left her child with another woman and went down from the mountain, creeping back into her house. She grabbed a few things from her kitchen and then headed back to the foothills.
As the sun began to rise, she was spotted.
“Two Boko Haram men grabbed me. Then two others came,” Mercy said. “They took me to their leader.”
Once she arrived at the house where they would be keeping her, Mercy saw other women and girls. Some looked terrified, others dejected, as though they had resigned to their new lives in captivity. They wore hijabs, most having been forced to convert to Islam.
Mercy asked another woman how life was in the house. “[She] told me that they are being fed.” She advised Mercy to just “cool it” and obey Boko Haram until she sees a chance to escape.
Mercy learned that her captors often took men to the house to slaughter them in front of the women to intimidate them. She decided to not wait, but run. Her baby boy was waiting for her in the mountains along the Nigeria-Cameroon border. Ishaya knew she would likely be killed trying to escape, but she had to try.
While everyone was kneeling for evening prayers, she went to a restroom and jumped through a window above a toilet stall. She climbed over the barbed wire fence and ran back to the mountains under the moonlight to find her son, Wisdom.
One of her fellow escapees was Ladi Apagu, 16, who was held in the house for four months. She saw women and girls brought in weekly.
The fighters forced Ladi to convert to Islam and renamed her Fatima. But Ladi refused to follow Islam. She was beaten for days because she did not obey the imam. Once, when she told him that she could not perform Islamic prayers because she was menstruating, he kicked her.
Ladi’s legs are scarred with welts from beatings she endured in the house. But she does not only carry the physical scars. She is haunted by the frequent killings she was forced to watch of men who refused to join Boko Haram.
One day in December, the captors told Ladi and the others they would all be married to fighters within the next two weeks. “We cried and pleaded and they said, ‘if you don’t stop crying, we will kill you.’ They also warned those who thought of escaping by saying, “Wherever you go, whether in Yola or anywhere, we will still go after you and kill you.”
They both say the Boko Haram fighters regularly boasted about the Chibok girls to the women.
Father, we pray for the situation that many Nigerian Christians have found themselves in, at the hands of Boko Haram. This group seems to be executing unending violence and torture. We know, however, that You have a plan to bring glory to Yourself through this terrible situation. While the actions of this group show us how sinful man is without God, we thank You for the salvation You’ve offered in order to rescue us. We pray for the salvation of Boko Haram, and we ask You to comfort the believers that are trying to live out their faith despite the attacks of Boko Haram. We pray this in the Name of Jesus, Amen.