A new report from Amnesty International says that terrorist group Boko Haram is committing war crimes in northeast Nigeria, killing at least 2,000 people in the first half of 2014 alone and kidnapping thousands more. Through eyewitness testimony, they’ve learned that the women and girls abducted by the group are being raped and “married” to fighters. Others are forced to arm themselves and fight alongside their kidnappers.
The plight of women and girls being terrorized by Boko Haram became worldwide news last year, when 276 schoolgirls from Chibok were abducted on April 14. (A year later, they are all still missing.) The new Amnesty report, which you can read in full here, took testimony from 377 people, including 189 victims and eyewitnesses to Boko Haram attacks. It confirms that life remains especially grim for women and girls in Boko Haram camps and territories controlled by the groups. Rape, for example, is commonplace, as is forced marriage:
In some cases women and girls escaped from Boko Haram or were freed after their families paid a ransom. Women and girls who remained were forced into marriage with Boko Haram members. In many cases a bride price was paid to family members or to the woman or girl herself, although the circumstances show that the marriage was forced. These wives were forced to perform domestic chores and were raped. Although rape was banned in territories under Boko Haram control, women and girls were also raped in secret outside forced marriages.
There’s also new information that both boys and girls are being trained as fighters:
Amnesty International has received information that some abducted boys and girls under the age of fifteen were forced to take active part both in battle and in executions. This conduct constitutes the war crime of conscription or recruitment of child soldiers and members of Boko Haram should be investigated for this offence.
In one camp in a town called Gullak, approximately 200 female Boko Haram fighters showed up to train the kidnapped women to become fighters themselves. From the testimony of a girl referred to as Aisha:
In October, the commander of the camp brought approximately 200 female fighters, according to Aisha abducted women and girls like herself, to train them. “The commander said we should learn from them. Learn about killing and slaughtering. They told me how they attacked towns and villages, how they kill other people, how they slaughter infidels. They described how they attacked Gwoza and Michika. They told us they had killed a lot of people, they had abducted young boys and other girls. The commander wanted them to encourage us to fight and kill.”
In January, Boko Haram used a little girl, estimated to be around 10 years old, as a suicide bomber, packing explosives under her veil and sending her into a crowded marketplace.
As for abductions like the kind that befell the girls of Chibok, Amnesty now estimates that more than 2,000 people have been kidnapped, “the majority of them” unmarried women and girls, whom the terrorist group claims are “religiously obliged to be married.” The majority of women who report having been raped and forcibly married also say they were beaten.
In the town of Bama, hundreds of people are being held in a prison there. Many of the men have been executed, sometimes on-camera, for being “unbelievers;” the women, meanwhile, are being given classes in Boko Haram’s twisted version of Islam in preparation for their “marriages” to fighters. From eyewitness testimony:
13-year-old Aisha Yakubu (not real name) was taken from her home on 15 September 2014 and held in the prison. She managed to escape during the night; her aunt took her out of Bama. 15-year-old Laraba Lawan (not real name) was also abducted on 15 September and taken to the prison. After a few days she was taken to the Boko Haram camp in Sambisa; “I was very sick because of hunger and fear. I was taken to the insurgents’ hospital and given drugs, two injections and two drips.” She escaped from the hospital and returned to her home. After Boko Haram fighters came to her house again and said they wanted to marry her, they took her to a house in Bama where they detained women and girls and gave her Qur’anic classes. She escaped with six other detained women and girls early in the morning of 10 November 2014.
There are also reports that Christian girls who refused to convert are held in a detention camp indefinitely.
Not surprisingly, Boko Haram is also using women and girls as domestic slaves, holding them in houses or camps, forcing them to cook and clean, not allowing them to leave. A few have managed to get away, though, either because their families pay a ransom, because they escape, or because Boko Haram members can’t feed them and let them go.
In response to this litany of horrors, Amnesty has a long list of recommendations for everyone who is — to be blunt about it — not currently doing a goddamn thing. They’re calling for Boko Haram to be investigated by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, including “rape, sexual slavery, and other forms of sexual violence.” They’re asking the National Human Rights Commission to document these atrocities as they happen, and for the Nigerian government and armed forces to take every possible step to protect civilians. They’re also directly asking Boko Haram to stop killing, enslaving and raping people, to condemn the fighters who continue to do so, and to allow humanitarian aid groups access to the areas they control.
Young girls in a Zafaye refugee camp in Chad listening to a Quranic teacher. Thousands of Nigerians have fled to Chad to escape Boko Haram. Photo via AP