“I am married, I am good”: one of the Nigerian high school girls in Chibok kidnapped by Boko Haram, refused to be released with 82 others of her comrades, affirmed the Nigerian presidency.
A phenomenon that is not uncommon among the victims of the jihadist group, according to experts.
Abducted by Boko Haram fighters at the time of their examinations, more than 200 girls between the ages of 12 and 15 remained in the hands of the group for more than three years in “relative isolation,” notes Human Rights Watch Mausi Segun In Abuja.
“After such a long period of time, it is not surprising for captives to develop Stockholm syndrome,” the researcher says, who also highlights “trauma due to violence”, “religious confusion” and fear of “suspicions” “Of the community as a reason for refusing to return.
Zannah Mustapha, a negotiator of the exchange, quoted by local newspapers said that many of them still do not want to return. There are still a hundred of them that have not been found.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau announced shortly after their kidnapping to “marry” Chibok’s daughters to fighters, and, for the Christians, to have “converted them to Islam”.
In this extremely poor region of Nigeria, the promise of a marriage is part of the means of recruitment for men. Mass abductions also.
Thousands of children, men, and young women have been converted, willingly or forcibly, into the extremism of what had long been a rigorist Islamist sect before gradually transforming into a bloody jihadist movement.
The abduction of Chibok’s 276 high school girls in April 2014 had sparked a wave of global outrage, and their demand for release had been relayed throughout the world with #bringbackourgirls hashtags, up to Michelle Obama. They have become the symbol of the kidnappings of civilians in this conflict that ravages the vast area of Lake Chad.
The girl who refused to be released thus bears witness to the “complex relations” that the victims “with their captors”, notes Elizabeth Pearson, a specialist in the role of women in the conflict.
“Boko Haram’s fighters are not all violent with the women in the camp,” he said. “Sincere unions can be created, especially when there are children involved,” he told AFP. Researcher for the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London.
“It’s a lot more complex than the ‘victim-kidnapping-rescue’ narrative that we sometimes hear,” says Pearson.
Boko Haram, in its anti-governmental, anti-army rhetoric, sometimes imprinted with black magic in a region abandoned by the state for decades, can seduce an uneducated population.
“Women are not only victims but also actresses in this war,” said a report by the International Crisis Group in December 2016.
After seven years of war, “the men were killed disproportionately,” the report said, and women who had been kidnapped or who had chosen to join the jihadist group had been regularly used as human bombs for nearly two years.
All these nuances make the rehabilitation of abducted women even more difficult: they are rejected by a suspicious community of their involvement in the group. Worse, children from union with combatants are sometimes abandoned in camps for the displaced.
As the Nigerian army takes new villages every week, the reintegration of these populations is a real headache for the authorities.
Anyone who has lived in villages held by Boko Haram, or kidnapped by the group, must undergo verification by the army, sometimes for several months.
Amnesty International on Sunday asked the Nigerian authorities to provide adequate psychological support to the 82 high school students and not to prolong the traditional military investigation to assess their allegiance to the jihadist group.
In early April, UNICEF also denounced the detention of hundreds of children by the army, which interrogates them on Boko Haram and their alleged membership in the jihadist organization.
“We must show love to innocent children and support their mother, innocent too,” implored the governor of Borno, Kashim Shettima, from the first releases in 2015, warning that otherwise, they risked ” To inherit “from the hatred of their fathers. A situation which, two years later, has still not been resolved. “The child of a snake is a snake,” says a local saying.