- Noor, 17, was abducted by Boko Haram from her home in Bama, Nigeria last year and is being supported by UNICEF
- She was forced to marry a fighter and became his second wife. She gave birth to his daughter six months ago
- Even though she tried to escape six times her father has rejected her because she is associated with Boko Haram
- Aisha, 14, wanted to kill herself after being kidnapped but is now back with her family – six months pregnant
- Thousands of girls are being shunned for being ‘Boko Haram wives’ and their children are ‘bad blood’
Torn from her home in the dead of night and forced to marry a Boko Haram fighter, Noor tried to escape their evil clutches six times before she finally made it to safety – only to be accused of being a terrorist spy.
More than a year after she was snatched from her family she is free, but not only does she have the child of the man she was forced to marry, she’s an outcast, branded a sympathizer of the very men she fought so hard to escape.
‘They wanted to beat me up and make me confess, and kill me because I was a Boko Haram wife,” she told the MailOnline.
Many of the girls have returned to their families pregnant, or with ‘Boko Haram babies’, and have been rejected by both their families and their communities – fearing they now have ‘bad blood’.
‘They (local community) thought I was here to spy on them,’ said Noor, 17, describing the night she escaped to the relative safety of Maiduguri in northern Nigeria.
Thousands of kidnapped schoolgirls have escaped as the Nigerian army is advancing in the northern state of Borno – but instead of being welcomed home with open arms, thousands of ‘Boko Haram wives’ are being shunned.
Picked up by a local vigilante who recognized her and called her parents, Noor was given the crushing news that her father wanted nothing to do with her or his grandchild.
‘My father asked him: “Why did you bring her? You should have left her in Bama”’, said Noor monotonously as she stared at the floor and recounted her horrendous ordeal.
Recalling the night she was kidnapped from Bama, her hometown in northeastern Nigeria, the teenager was hiding under the bed with her sister and brother’s wife when three men came.
‘We were so scared when we saw the men coming,’ Noor said in a low voice. The girls were spotted easily – the sparse room provide little cover.
‘We were begging them and crying “please let us stay here,” but they said “no – your friends are with us and we’re teaching them and you must join them”.’
The men – dressed in shalwar khameez and standard camouflage, guns draped over their shoulders, marched the girls to ‘prison’ – a series of gated mansions abandoned by their owners.
For months the girls were forced to recite the Koran by the wives of Boko Haram fighters, and were branded as ‘unbelievers’ over and over again.
Determined to escape, Noor tried six times to flee.
But each time she was spotted by former neighbours who were either sympathetic to the group, or terrified they would be punished if they could be implicated and complicit with her escape.
Once she got as far as mixing with a crowd walking to Maiduguri, but was recognized and forced back to the prison.
One day the fighters came to the girls and informed them they had been married.
‘They said we have found suitors for you and we will marry you off. We refused but they said you have to go and if you don’t we’re going to beat you. You have to go – the Imam has married you.’
Noor made one last ditch attempt to escape to her father’s house, but was followed and the men came again for her the next day.
‘When the men (Boko Haram militants) came to the house they said if you don’t bring her out we’ll kill you and we’ll take her anyway,’ she said.
Deflated, and resigned, Noor was sent to live with the Boko Haram militant just a few years older than her near Sambisa Forrest.
If she tried to escape again they she was told, they would kill her.
Noor was taken just kilometres from Chibok, where the kidnapping of 200 schoolgirls in April 2014 sparked international outcry and the ‘BringBackOurGirls’ campaign.
Two months ago, after more than a year in captivity she summoned the strength to try one final escape and finding herself alone, slipped out at dusk, saying she was going to visit her grandmother.
She walked for seven hours – finally reaching her village at 1am.
‘I felt so safe and happy when I saw my grandmother. I felt like I was at home – I felt so happy not in the village, but as if I was back in Bama. I felt so safe. My grandmother was sleeping, but when she woke up it was if she was dreaming.’
After a week with her grandparents, her grandmother sent her to Bama, where she was picked up by the Civilian JTF and taken to Maiduguri.
Noor’s mother has left her husband to take care of her traumatized daughter, who had to live with a UNICEF volunteer for her protection when she first moved to the camp.
‘She’s associated with them – she cannot be trusted,’ her father tells his wife, who bravely insists on fighting for her daughter.
Now supported by her mother, Noor plays with her baby to distract her and it’s the only time during the interview that her eyes shine.
As Noor waited to be screened at the gates to the internally displaced people’s (IDP) camp, huddled with hundreds of other women, her husband’s name rang out.
An informant had told to local JTF that a Boko Haram wife was in their midst and they shouted for her to reveal herself.
Noor did nothing. Then they called her father’s name.
Finally all the women were called out to be searched one by one, all the while telling the women to give her up.
‘If you don’t tell us, she could be a spy and could be carrying weapons and she could kill all of you,’ they shouted at the crowd before Noor came forward, sure she had nothing to hide.
By this point, the army and UNICEF community volunteers intervened, pleading to treat her gently and she was allowed to continue to wait to be screened.
Estimates say between 500 and 2,000 women and children (boys and girls) have been snatched since 2012, but UNICEF’s Chief of Child Protection in Nigeria Rachel Harvey says it is clear the figure is much higher. As Boko Haram retreats from more and more areas, the scale of the abductions is becoming clear.
Efforts to retrieve the girls and to free up territory is making progress. Increasing numbers are coming back to their families who have largely fled to Maiduguri, the state capital increasingly under attack by militants posing as refugees or worse – women and children brainwashed and strapped with explosive vests.
As thousands of desperate families continue arrive seeking refuge from the violence and from famine, soldiers and the vigilante Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF) groups screen the crowds for terrorist infiltrators.
Locals say it’s easy to identify Boko Haram fighters – they have sores where the straps of their Kalashnikov rifles have dug into their shoulder, or callouses on their trigger finger.
For 14-year-old Aisha, she is traumatised by the memory of these militants holding a gun to her father’s head as she was abducted. It was the last time she saw him.
She had tried to keep herself hidden for five months while the so-called Islamic extremists combed Bama for girls to steal, rape and indoctrinate with their version of Islam.
It was not one Aisha recognized.
She was barely a teenager when she was taken and forced to march for two months through the jungle with hundreds of other girls.
‘I told myself that I wished I had just died. I didn’t know where my parents were, or if they were alive or not,’ she told MailOnline from the same IDP camp in Maiduguri.
‘At a certain point I wanted to commit suicide. But I thought if I commit suicide now, what will I tell god? So I decided to face it. I’ll face this difficulty and see how God will help me out of this situation,’ she said with a quiet resolution.
It took two years for her to escape, but which point she was pregnant by her Boko Haram ‘husband’, who was selected for her by faceless insurgents while she was imprisoned in a compound with other girls.
She dreamed up countless ways of escape.
But terrified she would be caught, Aisha couldn’t even confide in the other girls.
‘I wanted to escape, but if you tell anyone this someone will tell on you and tell them you are munafiq (hypocrites) so they will either punish you or kill you,’ she told MailOnline.
Aisha was finally rescued after overhearing an elderly woman in the area where she was being held railing against the brutal movement that had ransacked their countryside.
They walked all day to the next village, which was being liberated by the Nigerian army. Desperate, the pair hid themselves among the fleeing villagers and managed to cross to freedom.
Elated that she would finally be able to reunite with her family and fulfill her promise to her father, Aisha keenly asked for news of her parents and her brother, only to be told her father had died.
‘The last thing my father said to me was that this is the most difficult moments you will face, but you can come back anytime.
‘He told me: “You’re still welcome in this family,”’ she said, tears rolling down her cheeks.
Both girls who spoke to MailOnline believe they were being held near Sambisa Forrest – the location widely believed to be where the Chibok girls are being held, and also near to where Amina Ali was discovered, the first Chibok girl found by vigilante groups in May this year.
They also report being second and third wives to their ‘husbands’, and that they believed they other wives had not been abducted.
Both girls unsurprisingly only want to look forward, and forget the trauma of the last two years.
‘My mother tells me it’s my destiny that I’m back and it’s even better now because the worst is behind me,’ says Noor.
Aisha, is eager to get back to school to study Maths and English once she has her baby in a defiant stand against her captors.
‘I used to ask him why they call people unbelievers when they pray just like you do, they fast just like you, do so why are they killing them?’, she said.
‘He told me that education is haram, and these people still send their children to schools so they are kafir (unbelievers) so killing them is the best way to stop it.’
‘But when you go to school you get knowledge, and when you get knowledge you can get a job so then I can start taking care of myself and other people around me.’
UNICEF works with girls on a one on one basis to provide counselling, and also sets up peer networking support, where the girls can come together and talk about their experiences.
Equally important, says Rachel Harvey, is working with their families and the communities to help them come to terms with their trauma and understand the girl’s experiences, as many have been accused of not fighting hard enough to escape.
‘In the IDP camps people don’t want to share services with the girls, and they face verbal and physical abuse. The threat of violence – especially to their children [whose fathers were members of Boko Haram] is a very big concern for us,’ she told MailOnline.
‘Without support these girls could face a second trauma – first the kidnapping, and now the stigmatization from their community and violence.’
Source: Dailymail UK