Report details how Boko Haram terrorises schoolgirls and women in Nigeria

Chibok girls, Children in conflicts, Safe schools

Boko Haram is threatening girls in northeastern Nigerian with beatings or death unless they stop attending school, a report by Human Rights Watch has revealed.

And girls or women who are abducted by the Islamist group are forced to marry and convert – and endure horrific forced labour, abuse and rape.

The international organisation interviewed 46 witnesses and victims of Boko Haram in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states for the report Those Terrible Weeks in their Camp: Boko Haram Violence Against Women and Girls in Northeast Nigeria, published today. It also spoke to a variety of people including NGOs, social workers, state and national government officials and religious leaders.

The interviewees included girls who escaped their captors after being abducted from their school in Chibok in April. More than 500 girls and women have been kidnapped since 2009.

A 19-year-old student told how she was travelling home from school in Konduga, Borno state, with five fellow students when Boko Haram insurgents stopped their vehicle.

She said one of the Boko Haram men shouted: “Aha! These are the people we are looking for. So you are the ones with strong heads who insist on attending school when we have said ‘boko’ (Western education) is ‘haram’ (forbidden). We will kill you here today.”

She said they were taken to a camp deep within a forest and held there for two days. They were released only after pretending to be Muslims and promising never to return to school.

HRW said that as well as students, other groups targeted by Boko Haramn include Christians, traditional leaders, those who oppose Islam and civil servants.

It  has put forward recommendations for the Nigerian government, including:

  • Providing all victims of abduction and other violence access to adequate medical and mental health services
  • Better anticipation and response to protect people from Boko Haram
  • Ensuring access to safe schools, including the implementation of the Safe Schools Initiative

HRW’s Africa director Daniel Bekele said: “Now the Nigerian government and its allies need to step up their efforts to put an end to these brutal abductions and provide for the medical, psychological, and social needs of the women and girls who have managed to escape.”

Watch an animated film for the BBC that tells the dramatic story of how some Chibok schoolgirls escaped from Boko Haram.

Click here to read the Safe Schools Initiative report.

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