Kidnapped girls rescued from Boko Haram face shame, mistrust, scorn and isolation back at home

 

They may be called “displacement camps” but to the rescued kidnap victims of Boko Haram they must seem more like internment camps. Internment camps were used in the past to isolate people considered likely to have loyalties to an enemy. In the second world war we confined patriotic Japanese Americans in such camps simply because of their race. It’s a form of “guilt by association” that justified locking up innocent people just because their background might predispose them to having sympathies for the wrong side.

 

The girls and women rescued from the Boko Haram rape camp are being treated in a similar fashion. They endured systematic brainwashing and perpetual fear for their lives while in the clutches of the terrorist group. They faced extreme and relentless pressure to convert and accept the ideology of their captors.  These rescued females are now regarded as suspects since they may have been radicalized by constant torture, harassment and psychological manipulation at the hands of Boko Haram “compliance specialists”. They could be ticking time-bombs waiting for the perfect opportunity to inflict maximum carnage in the name of their tormentors.

 

Most of these girls and women have no homes to return to after being rescued since their towns and villages were burned to the ground when terrorists abducted them. They end up in camps, run by the military and inhabited by other displaced Nigerians who want nothing to do with them. They are often interrogated, restricted in their movements and continuously monitored by suspicious armed soldiers. The girls and women unfortunate enough to have been impregnated by their rapists get a brand of scorn and loathing reserved for mothers of future terrorists. Apparently, terrorism is considered genetic in some parts of the world and many Nigerians believe the offspring of a murdering terrorist will grow up to embrace the same blood thirsty ideology. Guilt by association has never been more misplaced.

 

What these women and girls represent is yet another example of how religious fanaticism piles victims on top of victims. They were ripped from their lives and families by brutal, self-righteous religious crusaders with a warped worldview. They were subjected to atrocities far beyond what most first world citizens could fathom. Many had the courage and fortitude to resist and to attempt escape and many paid with their lives. When their anemic government finally got around to rescuing them (inadvertently killing many in the process) they became victims of a different nature. They are forever reminded of their hellish ordeal by being shunned and avoided. They’re labled “Sambisa Women” (a reference to the location of the rape camp in the Boko Haram caliphate) or “Boko Haram wives” even though they (some as young as 8) gave no consent for the impromptu marriages and subsequent rape.

 

The children spawned in the rape camp are the most innocent and tragic victims. They never had the chance to resist, were never afforded the luxury of choice. They may never know anything but the life of a pariah…... despised and stigmatized.

 

These women and children should be treated like heroes and not outcasts. They have paid and continue to pay a price beyond any conceivable accounting. Shame on the Nigerian government for not granting some kind of special status to these brave and completely blameless women and children. Shame on any Nigerian that would discriminate against them or treat them like filth. They should be lifted out of poverty and celebrated for their courage and tenacity. They should be respected for their pain and sacrifice. Of course they must be monitored and evaluated for signs of radicalization but in a gentle, respectful way.

 

Almost half of the suicide bombings in Nigeria last year were carried out by women and girls taken hostage by Boko Haram and “turned” radical or forced by fear of some unthinkable retribution if they refuse. Regardless of the number of suicide attacks carried out by brainwashed victims of radical Islam, these women and children are innocent and deserve compassion. Perhaps more kindness, understanding and love with less suspicion, shaming and blaming would go a long way toward de-radicalizing girls and women whose only crime was trying to better themselves by getting an education so they may better serve their community and country.

Published by Bill Hoover