Some women escaped, but Boko Haram continues to kidnap and kill
Despite the encouraging news that 63 girls and women have reportedly escaped the grip of Boko Haram, the militant Islamic group still holds the more than 200 schoolgirls it kidnapped in April captive.
The hostages who escaped were taken from the Kummabza village on June 18 after four days of fighting, in which more than 30 of the village men were killed and all homes were burned. Vigilantes from the region now say 63 women and girls slipped away when the fighters guarding them were called out to help in an attack on military barracks and police headquarters in another town, Damboa, that was tougher than the terrorists had expected.
“The women seized that rare opportunity to escape when they realized they were alone in the camp,” Bukar Kyari, a local vigilante fighting Boko Haram in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, told CNN. “But we still have five women, including a nursing mother, missing.”
Meanwhile, in Chibok, the home of the schoolgirls whose April 14 kidnapping by the group sparked off the #bringbackourgirls campaign, things have not improved. According to a Nigerian newspaper, 50 people were killed and five churches razed there on June 29, when the town came under attack again. After the initial kidnappings, says the paper, about 20 soldiers were dispatched there. Villagers have opined they are not getting much support from their local government because Chibok is a mostly Christian town in a mostly Muslim region.
The future looks increasingly difficult for the Chibok abductees the longer they are away. (At publication, they have been gone for 84 days.) If recent history is any guide, even if they return, they face a tough time resuming their former lives. If they come back with children, as other abductees have, those children will be considered tainted by their Boko Haram lineage. Even if they aren’t pregnant or mothers, the girls are quite likely to have difficulty finding husbands, as the suspicion of impurity tends to scare off suitors. (Notice how the returned abductees in the photo are covered in sheets to protect their identity.) In northern Nigeria, unmarried women do not have many options.
It’s purely speculation, but if the experience of the girls who were taken by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda is any guide, the girls’ captors could very well use the threat of shame and alienation from the community as a method of dissuading their captives from running away. Some of the kidnapped Ugandan girls were gone for as long as a decade.