The women in Boko Haram are not only the wives of the terrorists; some of them are trained to become weapons of war. A Boko Haram specialist in charge of projects at the Centre for Development Studies and the Prevention of Extremism gives details of his interviews with these women.
At the beginning of 2020, the terrorist group Boko Haram, which has pledged allegiance to Daech*, had around 6,500 fighters, 26% of whom were women, confirms the Centre for Studies for Development and Prevention of Extremism (CEDPE). These women hold different positions in the organization and functioning of Boko Haram.
They are exploited as sex slaves, they voluntarily join the group searching for a husband and money or are trained to become fighters alongside the men. Oubadjimdehba Désiré, Boko Haram specialist and project officer at the CEDPE, explains to Sputnik why these women join the terrorist group and how they try to leave it.
Women “trained for war” and suicide bombers
Some of the women join Boko Haram because their husbands are already there, so they don’t really have a choice. “But there are those who seek to fight for the terrorist ideals that Boko Haram propagates,” says Oubadjimdehba Désiré.
“There are the women fighters, those who are trained and educated to make war. There are those who are trained for kamikaze attacks, how to wear explosive waistcoats, how to activate them. They are indoctrinated to take action without pity or remorse. They are prepared for several months or even years”.
Some women serve as intelligence officers for the combatants; they will infiltrate a village or locality to give their superiors information on the position and strategies being developed by the government forces. They spend several days with their families or acquaintances to carry out investigations and then pass them on to Boko Haram.
Suicide bombers are a very special part of the women of Boko Haram. Age here doesn’t really matter, minors are used for more tragic purposes as they are more prone to brainwashing. Oubadjimdehba Désiré cites examples that demonstrate how very young girls are demolished by their own parents within Boko Haram.
Three women carried out another attack near the town of Bol on Yiga Island in 2016. Three young women were carrying their explosives, and their objective was to come and carry out the attack in the town. But when they noticed the presence of the army, they detonated their bombs in the evening at 6 p.m., the time of prayer, reports Oubadjimdehba Désiré.
Women to marry
The life of young single women around Lake Chad is hard, and dreaming of a happy life, they voluntarily join the ranks of Boko Haram. But there are also those who are already married and abandon their children and husbands to join the group.
Women, who are in the organization without their husbands and who have children, if they are young, they are remarried to another man to take care of them with their children. But Oubadjimdehba Désiré certifies that there is a procedure for women who choose their husbands themselves.
“Young girls of marriageable age are given in marriage. Older women and widows are there, especially for the combatants to satisfy themselves sexually. In some cases, the marriage of some women is at the request and choice of the woman for the man she likes or likes to please. She informs the chief, and the chief informs the man, and the union is then celebrated.”
Some women are there especially for housework, they work in the kitchen, do the laundry, and serve the chefs. A category of women work with the men in the fields, fishing, and trade to support the group, notes Oubadjimdehba Désiré.
Life after Boko Haram
The analyst from the Centre for Studies for the Development and Prevention of Extremism confirms that military pressure will force 2,350 combatants to disengage soon and surrender to the authorities of the Lake Chad Basin, which will greatly weaken Boko Haram, whose strength will drop to 1,502 elements, with 1,310 active combatants and 392 women (23%).
Once disengaged, these women will have to reintegrate, which is a big problem, according to Oubadjimdehba Désiré.
“They go through the security service to report to Baga Sola. Previously, they were kept under observation before returning to their families, but lately, given the means for their care, they are automatically handed over to their families through their traditional chief, who testifies and vouches for them.”
These women suffer from community stigmatization, the population treats them as criminals and is afraid of them. Oubadjimdehba Désiré was able to meet women from Boko Haram who return to their families and are welcomed with open arms, but it is above all the community that finds it difficult to accept them.
Their social conditions do not allow them to live without remorse. The psychological repercussions affect these women who are struggling to reach both their families and those around them, as they have lost everything in terms of material and immovable assets by joining Boko Haram.