Boko Haram is an Islamist militant group in Nigeria that started in 2009. Their goal is to impose a strict form of Islamic law across the nation. By 2011 there had been several attacks that left more 425 people dead. In November 2011 they carried out a bombing in Damaturu that killed around 100 people. They targeted police housing, government buildings, banks, and churches. There were also attacks in Maiduguri.
At the end of 2011 President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in some areas of Nigeria as a response to the previous attacks. A few days later Boko Haram gave an ultimatum to the southern Nigerians to leave the north. From there they started carrying out attacks on churches and a filling station. Abubakar Shekau, the Boko Haram leader, released a video stating the violence against the Christians were in retaliation for the Christians killing Muslims in central Nigeria. On January 20, 2012 Boko Haram carried out a suicide bombing that attacked several different areas and gunmen also shot randomly. By the end of those first three weeks a total of 253 people were killed.
In February 2012 Boko Haram began targeting schools and setting them on fire. By March 2012 there were at least 12 schools that had been damaged and destroyed and left several thousand children out of school. A spokesman for Boko Haram said if Quranic education was not allowed to be continued, then Western and secular education should not be allowed either. He claimed the attacks were in retaliation for the attacks against Quranic schools as well as the arrests of local clerics.
In May 2012 Boko Haram attacked newspaper offices for inaccurate reporting. They bombed two offices of This Day newspaper killing 9 people and released a video afterwards threatening other media as well as the government. Abul Qaqa, the spokesperson for Boko Haram, said the group was blamed for attacks they weren't responsible for and that a video they posted on YouTube was mistranslated.
In June 2012 suicide bombers attacked three churches killing 19 people. Abubakar Sheka, an Islamist leader, said they were in retaliation for Muslims who were killed in the Middle Belt. Afterwards some Christian youth blocked the highway and dragged Muslims from cars killing them in revenge for the church attacks. The state governor called a 24-hour curfew after the attacks to subdue the violence.
Throughout 2012 and 2013 the Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria increased. In May 2013 a state of emergency was declared in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe. According to the UN there were 48 attacks in northeast Nigeria since the state of emergency was declared. By the end of 2013 there were over 1,200 people that were killed in the region since the state of emergency.
By June 2014 Boko Haram carried out about 95 attacks in Nigeria, killing at least 2,053. The attacks were across 70 towns and villages in northeastern Nigeria and the capital Abuja. Majority of the attacks were in Borno State, which is where Boko Haram started. Many of the attacks were suicide bombings as well as bomb blasts and gunmen firing on civilians. There were also reports of abuse by Nigerian Security Forces to men and boys that were suspected of supporting Boko Haram. Many were imprisoned in inhumane conditions, physically abused, killed, or forcibly disappeared.
By the end of 2014 there were several more attacks by Boko Haram. In September the villages of Assighassia and Ganse were attacked. Around 40,000 had fled to Cameroon for safety. By October Boko Haram agreed with Nigeria to release 200 schoolgirls they had kidnapped from April earlier that year. By November about 10,000 were forced to flee Adamawa after attacks by Boko Haram and the Nigerian army fighting to retake Nubi. In December there were more attacks and about 100 people that were abducted in the village of Gumsuri.
By the end of first quarter of 2015 Boko Haram killed another 1,000 civilians. Villages continued to be attacked along with mass killings and abductions. From 2009 up until that time period 1 million Nigerians were forced to flee their homes. Many that were captured by Boko Haram were forced to join the group or into marriage, raped, had to convert to Islam, or were victims of other abuse. Nigerian security forces and the militias continued to commit human rights abuses against civilians as they fought against Boko Haram.
From 2014 through 2015 Boko Haram abducted about 2,000 women and girls. They were taken to camps and forced into sexual slavery and trained to killed. Aisha was kidnapped along with her sister when she was 19 years old at a wedding. They were taught how to use a gun, bombs, and attack villages. After three weeks of training she was sent out to operations, and even did one in her own village. Aisha didn't kill anyone, but burned houses. While she was held captive she was raped repeatedly and was finally able to escape after a few months. Her sister was killed in the camp.
YouTube - Amnesty International
From the start of 2015 until the end of that September more than 3,500 civilians were killed. From June through September alone Boko Haram killed about 1,600 people. At the beginning of June President Buhari vowed to investigate the human rights violations committed by Nigerian military forces along with the war crimes and crimes against humanity. By the end of September he had failed to start the investigation. Thousands of victims were still awaiting justice.
About 64 percent of the Nigerians escaping from Boko Haram attackers have been displaced many times. Aliyu Muhamad lost both his brothers and father when his town was attacked. He lost everything in the attack and left with only his clothes. He had to flee to Chad where he was reunited with his wife and children. Later on he had to flee yet again and ended up at Gombyo camp where he was separated from his wife and children, making life even more difficult. Aisha Mohamed recalls being imprisoned in a community school with barely enough food to eat; some days they went without any food. Although Boko Haram is known for raping women they've captured, many of the women are scared to talk because of the stigma of being a rape victim.
Wives of Boko Haram fighters reminisce about their lives before the safe house they are now in. Aisha, an Amira, married her husband who is a commander because she thought he was wealthy. He gave her money weekly, bought her jewelry, makeup, and clothes. She would collect his gun, magazines, and bombs whenever he would return home. Her role as the Amira was to take care of other wives. Another woman named Aisha was forced to cut her family off once she married her husband. Her husband was not a high-ranking member of Boko Haram so her life was not as privileged as the Amira. A lady named Zainab says Boko Haram is misunderstood and that whatever they are told is the right thing to do. Another wife says that it's okay and normal to be a suicide bomber.
Towards the end of 2016 the attacks by Boko Haram had displaced more than 280,000 people in the Diffa region. Many of the people displaced were living in run-down shacks. There was also the issue of a strict curfew that led to markets closing and the suspension of trade, causing a downfall in the economy. There have been shortages of food and access to aid. Many schools have also been closed and villages have been crowded, putting 150,000 children out of education.
From January through August 2017 Boko Haram used 83 children to carry out bomb attacks in northeastern Nigeria. It was four times higher than 2016. Hafsat Muhammed, who is a rights activist and journalist, says the number of children used by the group is actually higher. She says the children have a sense of belonging with groups like Boko Haram whereas in society they don't have basic necessities. It makes it easier for Boko Haram to persuade them and use them.
By the end of September 2017 more than of the schools in Borno were closed, leaving millions of children out of school. About 1,400 schools were destroyed and more than half of the schools were still damaged or in unsafe areas. The attacks by Boko Haram leave the possibility of a lost generation. Besides the violence the children are suffering from there are also the issues of malnutrition and an outbreak of cholera.
Zainabu Hamayaji is a mother of 10 children who did everything she could to protect her children from Boko Haram. When she heard fighters were looking for fighters to marry in their town, she decided to hide her 11-year-old daughter Hassana in a ditch at the back of her compound. She gave Hassana water, food supplies, and a leather bag to use as a toilet. Whenever Boko Haram came looking for her daughter she swore she didn't have one and was beaten for it. Hamayaii also pretend to be crazy by walking around town naked with feces and urine in her hair to protect the rest of the family. Another madwoman was killed and Boko Haram thought it had cursed them. They didn't want it to happen again and wrote on a wall that no one should touch Hamayaii or her children or they would be cursed. Eventually Hamayaii's family was saved by the military.
In 2014 Boko Haram kidnapped Joy Bishara at her school. The night she was taken her friend woke her up because they heard Boko Haram shooting around town. A man came into their school and they tried to run, but he told them he was there to protect them from what was going on outside. They trusted him and more members of Boko Haram came into their dorm. Boko Haram told them of the attacks they've done before and that if they tried to escape they would be killed too. They had to go on a truck with Boko Haram and she got the idea to jump out. She ended up running into two classmates who had also jumped out and they ran for hours. A man they came across took them back to the school where she was able to reunite with her parents. After her experience with Boko Haram she was scared to go back to school, but made the decision that she won't give up her dreams of becoming a doctor. Joy believes that the government should protect all schools and that everyone has a right to education; without that there will be loss of education throughout generations making it more difficult for a country to progress.
YouTube - United Nations
In Borno, Nigeria the attacks from Boko Haram have affected people in many ways. One kid recalls his brother and uncle being killed by the rebel group and fleeing his home. The place he is living in now has nowhere to farm, and they lack clothes as well as other things. Boko Haram is still harassing them. Almost half of the people displaced are kids. The International Rescue Committee assists with providing help at malnutrition centers, emotional and psychosocial support, and education.
YouTube - International Rescue Committee
There are still more than a hundred girls that remain prisoners of Boko Haram and mothers are left waiting for their daughters to return home. One woman was held captive and beaten by her husband. She was able to escape when her husband left in a hurry one day; she heard the Nigerian military was coming so she left. Returning home after captivity can be difficult for survivors. Many women coming back to the communities after being held captive have to deal with suspicion from others that they are spies. Men and boys that escape from fighting for Boko Haram have to go through a tough screening process with the military to prove they are not active members.