700 more of the women and girls kidnapped by Boko Haram have been freed by the Nigerian 7th division in the last week. These rescue efforts have centered around Sambisa Forest, a former colonial game reserve in the northeast of the country.
The army has said that none of the freed hostages were those taken at Chibok, which was the incident that sparked the outcry of the #BringBackOurGirls movement, but Nigerian defense headquarters said it is too early to tell. Many of their identities have not yet been determined, writes Sara Malm of the Daily Mail.
Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg, and the Nigerian government has a lot to accomplish before this threat is neutralized. Amnesty International has said that since the start of last year, Boko Haram has kidnapped around 2,000 women and girls. The organization’s Africa director for research and advocacy, Netsanet Belay, reminds us that there are many more hostages to locate.
Some of the rescued hostages are too traumatized to speak of their experience, but those who can have described horrors. When they were taken by Boko Haram, their husbands and sons were killed in front of them. The survivors were sexually and psychologically abused, and then sold into sexual slavery. Some were forced to fight alongside their captors, often as human shields. Many died of malnutrition and disease.
During the rescue, Boko Haram fighters stoned some of the captives to death in an attempt to influence them to move out of the reach of rescuers, and others were killed by an armored car and the explosion of a landmine. According to the Guardian, some were so influenced by the psychological abuse that they endured that they attacked their rescuers.
Survivor Lami Musa, 27, gave birth the night before the rescue, just in time to avoid marriage to one of the men responsible for the death of her husband. She was quoted by the Telegraph:
They took me so I can marry one of their commanders. When they realized I was pregnant, they said I was impregnated by an infidel, and we have killed him. Once you deliver, within a week we will marry you to our commander.
Boko Haram came and told us they were moving out and that we should run away with them. But we said no. Then they started stoning us. I held my baby to my stomach and doubled over to protect her.
The United Nations special envoy for global education, Gordon Brown, has begun an initiative to improve security at Nigerian schools, which are often the target of these attacks because of the organization’s stance against Western-style education, and education for women in particular.
Boko Haram translates as ‘Western education is a sin.’