Twenty-year-old Jumai Haruna spent the last two years in Sambisa forest, the stronghold of the extremist Islamic sect, Boko Haram. Four months ago, she was rescued by the security forces. She left the forest with a large scar from a bullet wound on her arm.
But as she spoke to a Punch correspondent, last week, at the Internally Displaced Persons’ camp in Yola, Adamawa State.
The story that Haruna shared was a tale of ra pe, abuse, forced labour, torture and her forced marriage to one of the terrorists.
“I would never have married such a man but we were all forced to marry them or be killed,” she said with growing bitterness. “I lost a pregnancy for my original husband because of the condition of the place.” Haruna’s ‘original husband’ was the man she married shortly before she was captured by Boko Haram.
Two years in captivity with the insurgents have obviously taken its toll on Haruna. Frail, gaunt and listless, she looked at least 10 years older. She insisted that it was the pain inside of her that hurt the most.
“It is like cutting a baby with a knife, you can imagine the pain she would feel. We endured many difficult days. They fed us with raw maize, and at some point, we spent three days without food or water,” she told SUNDAY PUNCH.
‘Boko Haram baby’
Haruna’s tragic journey into captivity began in 2014 when she and other women were captured by Boko Haram fighters who attacked their village in Gwoza Local Government Area, in Borno State, North-East Nigeria. As she shared the details of that journey, she kept looking down at the child she bore for Hamidu, her Boko Haram captor. The three weeks old baby slept peacefully in her arms.
When asked to speak about the abuses she suffered in Sambisa, Haruna said she did not want to talk about it. Her memories of her cohabitation with Hamidu are full of pain.
“As for this baby I carry now, it is destiny, but I don’t want to remember the past. I appreciate him because it is God that gave me the child. I love this child; I cannot do anything to change my destiny. So, I will take care of my boy child as my own,” she said.
Haruna is determined to bring up her son with much love and also ensure that he does not follow in the footsteps of his father. She vowed never to let her son know who his real father was.
“No, I cannot tell him that his real father is a member of Boko Haram. No, he would be disappointed and it would be a big blow to him. I will not allow that. I will prevent him from knowing. But I will love him.”
Interestingly, her original husband, who is based outside Borno, came visiting her at the Internally Displaced Persons’ camp in Yola, a week before SUNDAY PUNCH was there. An official at the IDP camp told our correspondent they allowed Haruna’s husband to stay with her for a week.
She stated, “Yes, he came and spent a week with me. He said he is still in love with me, despite all that I went through and the forced marriage. He said he was still interested in me and would wait for me. He is a good man. He said that, like every good Muslim, he believed this was his destiny, and he had to accept it, whether it was good or bad. He said the fault was not the baby’s and he promised to take care of him as his own biological child.”
But there is a twist in her love story. Her husband’s younger brother is a Boko Haram member and was in Sambisa when she was captured.
“My real husband’s younger brother is part of Boko Haram,” she said, and mentioned the names of some other Boko Haram members she came to know. “I have given their names to the security agencies. He even told me that if he ever saw my husband, he would kill him.”
She said she felt no sympathy for Hamidu despite having had his child.
“Even those from the same village with me, if I know they are with Boko Haram, I would report them to the military; just like I would report him if I see him now. I want them (military) to kill him,” she added.
Like Haruna, 18-year-old Asta Abdullahi, also from Gwoza, was abducted and forcefully wedded to a Boko Haram member by the sect.
She said she and some of her friends were working in the farm when the terrorists swooped on their village, a few months after the kidnap of the 276 Chibok girls, 218 of whom remain missing.
“When they came into our village, they started shooting at everybody and everything. We ran, but they finally caught us inside the bush. We were about 18 in number, eight of us young girls, and 10 married women. They pushed us inside a big truck and took us to Sambisa,” she said.
Abdullahi said they were not the only girls or women there.
“We saw many women there, more than 200. Later, they threatened us that if we didn’t marry them we would all be killed. We had no choice; we did not want to die. Some girls managed to escape before me,” she said.
She said she later managed to trick her Boko Haram husband into following her to a nearby village.
“I saw some of the Chibok girls in Sambisa. They captured them before us. Some of them had already been impregnated. Some of them had given birth to children. The Boko Haram members kept them in a special place in Sambisa. Boko Haram members shared and sold the girls among themselves.”
When our correspondent asked how she knew they were the abducted girls from Chibok, Haruna said,
“It was the girls that said so themselves whenever they sat down (with other kidnapped women) and discussed with some of us. They confirmed it to us. Boko Haram members called Chibok girls and other girls or women they captured ‘Ganima.’” According to one of the officials at the camp, Ganima, loosely translated from the local Hausa language spoken in the North-East, means “spoils of war.”
She also said that, because Sambisa was a vast area, the insurgents gave names to different locations around it.
“They gave names to different places in Sambisa, names such as Gobara, Imsa, Sabluda, Jimia, and so on. The Chibok girls were scattered everywhere.”“They have their own medical team and makeshift clinic, a room, in Sambisa, where they get treated whenever they are injured from the battle with the army. The clinic was at Gobara. I have seen so many of the insurgents get injured. I saw more than 10 ‘doctors’ there. They mostly spoke Kanuri dialect.”
The next day, just before our correspondent left the IDP camp that sunny afternoon, Abdullahi’s parents showed up after several visits to different camps in search of their daughter.
Her mother, Azumi Alli, could not hide her emotions.
“I am very happy that I have seen one of my lost daughters. Two of them were missing. Before now, I had given up, thinking that my daughters were dead. Boko Haram killed my two boys and kidnapped my daughters. I want to thank the army for rescuing my daughter alive,” she told SUNDAY PUNCH.
Abdullahi’s father, Yusuf Alli, who is a member of a vigilance group in Madagali Local Government Area in Adamawa State, said,
“I am a hunter, and part of a vigilance group. I got information that my daughter was in this camp, so we came here. If I see the man who forced my daughter into marriage, I will kill him.”
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