There are an estimated 1,386,000 people living in modern slavery in Nigeria (GSI 2018). Since 2009, Nigeria’s homegrown Islamist insurgent movement, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, popularly known as Boko Haram, which means “Western Education is Forbidden,” has waged a violent campaign against the Nigerian government in its bid to impose Islamic law. The attacks have increasingly targeted civilians, mainly in the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa. Borno State, the birthplace of Boko Haram, has suffered the highest number of attacks. A range of issues, including widespread poverty, corruption, security force abuse, and longstanding impunity for a range of crimes have created fertile ground in Nigeria for militant armed groups like Boko Haram.
Hauwa was abducted by Boko Haram in 2013. She was forced to convert to Islam and kill for the insurgents. Hauwa was able to escape forced marriage in the camp where she was being held by pretending to have stomach pains and being sent to the hospital.
I usually carried their bullets. They would make me lie down on the ground during operations, but I just held the bullets.
When they wanted me to kill the first man, my body was shaking and I fell down on the ground. They forced me to get up and watch as they killed the second person. At that point, I was thinking I should grab a gun from the insurgents and kill myself since they had taught us how to shoot.
When I thought that I’d be forced into marriage, I pretended to have stomach pains. They were concerned that I might be HIV positive, so they told me to go get tested at a hospital.
That’s how I escaped from the camp.
When I returned home from the camp, people would tell me not to dwell on my experiences. My dreams are filled with regret for renouncing my religion instead of enduring the abuse of the insurgents. Even when I’m awake, I’m upset about the situation.
Narrative provided by Human Rights Watch