The young girls and women who have been kidnapped by Boko Haram, also known as the Islamic State West Africa (ISWA), over the past several years have very few options other than to become sex slaves or “wives,” and become indoctrinated in extremism by a life of violence. Women are used by Boko Haram as suicide bombers largely because they can move about more freely among a population without drawing suspicion.
According to New York Times, the women who have escaped describe a six-step indoctrination or training program that they are forced to go through, which usually ends with the detonation of a suicide bomb. Boko Haram fighters utilize food and sleep deprivation in order to sway the women into converting to Islam and a life of violence. The women and girls are even given funeral rites prior to leaving for their suicide missions, and are told their actions will be a direct pathway to heaven.
The lucky ones who escape the Boko Haram camps are marked for life and stigmatized by those around them. The hashtag #bringourgirlshome has been widely used in the media when referencing the missing girls and women, however, if they do make it home, they are usually shunned by their families and neighbors. Many are worried that the returned girls and women are still loyal to Boko Haram and will either carry out attacks or lead Boko Haram back to their homes. Their families and neighbors are cautious for a reason; since June, 2014, over 100 women have carried out terrorist attacks such as suicide bombings. Most women who have escaped Boko Haram end up in refugee shelters or internally displaced persons (IDP) camps to avoid the stigma from their home.
As of now, hundreds of the kidnapped women remain unaccounted for, and it’s likely the stigma and shunning of women returning from Boko Haram camps will continue. The suicide attacks will unfortunately continue until Boko Haram is eradicated.
Images courtesy of Reuters, lilysblackboard.org