Thousands of women and girls who survived the brutal rule of the Boko Haram armed group have since been further abused by the Nigerian security forces who claim to be rescuing them, said Amnesty International in a news reports.
“They betrayed us” reveals how the Nigerian military and Civilian Joint Task Force (Civilian JTF) – a militia who work alongside them – have separated women from their husbands and confined them in remote “satellite camps” where they have been raped, sometimes in exchange for food. Amnesty International has collected evidence that thousands of people have starved to death in the camps in Borno state, north-east Nigeria, since 2015.
“It is absolutely shocking that people who had already suffered so much under Boko Haram have been condemned to further horrendous abuse by the Nigerian military,” said Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria.
“Instead of receiving protection from the authorities, women and girls have been forced to succumb to rape in order to avoid starvation or hunger.”
In some cases, the abuse appears to be part of a pattern of persecution of anyone perceived to have a connection to Boko Haram. Women reported being beaten and called “Boko Haram wives” by the security officials when they complained about their treatment.
As Nigeria’s military recovered territory from the armed group in 2015, it ordered people living in rural villages to the satellite camps, in some cases indiscriminately killing those who remained in their homes. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled or were forced from these areas.
The military screened everyone arriving to the satellite camps, and in some locations detained most men and boys aged between 14 and 40 as well as women who travelled unaccompanied by their husbands. The detention of so many men has left women to care for their families alone.
Rape of starving women and sexual exploitation
Scores of women described how soldiers and Civilian JTF members have used force and threats to rape women in satellite camps, including by taking advantage of hunger to coerce women to become their “girlfriends”, which involved being available for sex on an ongoing basis.
Sex in these highly coercive circumstances is always rape, even when physical force is not used.