One of the hundreds of girls and women rescued in a series of military raids on Boko Haram’s Sambisa hideout has confirmed that she tested positive to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) upon regaining her freedom.
The Nigerian military has rescued more than 700 girls and women in the last month, and it is unclear how many of them are pregnant or with the HIV virus, as nurses at the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps hosting the victims say many of them, out of shame, have recently been denying the violations they suffered from the insurgents.
On April 28, the Nigerian military rescued 200 girls and 93 women from Sambisa forest. The following day, it announced that troops of the 7 division Nigerian army had rescued additional women from the forest while insurgents’ camps at Wulari Bukar, Gangala, Anguwar Bakwai, Jigide, Kotorima, Lagara Bello and Lagara Fulani were destroyed. Within the same week, it announced the rescue of another batch of 234 women and children from the zone, and this was followed, weeks later, by the rescue of 25 more victims.
Speaking with New York Times, 30-year-old Yahauwa said she, alongside many other women, was raped repeatedly and threatened with death. “Is it from the people who forced me to have affairs with them?” she asked a relief worker on receiving the HIV test result, wiping the tears streaming down her face with her green head scarf.
Later, she explained that she and many other women were “locked in one big room” and selected at random for sex. “When they came, they would select the one they wanted to sleep with,” she said. “They said, ‘If you do not marry us, we will slaughter you.’ ” Another woman, Hamsatu, 25, said she was four months pregnant and that the father was a Boko Haram member whom she was forced to have sex with.
“They married me; they chose the ones they wanted to marry,” she said. “If anybody shouts, they said they would shoot them.” Yana, a young woman wearing sparkling golden bangles, said the fighters had “packed” her — a word many women have used to describe their imprisonment — with about 50 other women in a house in Bama.
“Inside the house, if they want to have an affair with a woman, they will just take her to a private place, so that the others won’t see,” she said. She could not recall her age, and a relief worker at the camp said she had been raped so often by that she was “psychologically affected”.
But Fanna, a 12-year-old girl had told relief officials in her camp entry interview that she was raped several times, was suddenly insisting that she wasn’t touched. Her denial was consistent with TheCable’s findings when it visited IDP camps in Yola, capital of Adamawa state, where most of the ex-Sambisa captives were living.