A memoir of abduction and sexual slavery at the hands of the Islamist Boko Haram militant group.
Ibrahim grew up in northern Nigeria, where Christians and Muslims have long lived in a sometimes-uneasy truce for generations. Her household, like most, was poor; her father made and sold fly swatters, and if sales were bad “he would guiltily ask my mother to beg for alms outside the churches in the surrounding villages so that we wouldn’t starve.” Things got a little better when Ibrahim married, but then her husband was cut down in a Boko Haram killing, as were other Christians, even as young Christian girls were spirited off to the forest and pressed into servitude. Writing with political journalist Hoffmann (co-author: The Girl Who Escaped ISIS, 2016, etc.), Ibrahim offers a cleareyed view of the sociology underlying this sexual slavery: in a place where unemployment is rampant and jobs few, young men lack the wherewithal to support a household, and for them, “the prospect of a bride as the spoils of war is highly enticing.” Never mind that the bride may already be married. Ibrahim, twice married, was pregnant when Boko Haram fighters stole her from her village, a fact that she had to disguise from them and that complicated her eventual homecoming, since children born of kidnappings “often disappear without a trace,” the feeling being that Boko Haram genes must be exterminated. The narrative takes unexpected turns at several points, including humane behavior on the part of the confused young fighter to whom she was pledged and who told her, “if you don’t marry me, then marry someone else. No woman who refuses will be left alive.”
Ibrahim’s bold firsthand account is powerful testimony to resilience and survival in the face of a kind of warfare that is becoming ever more common, its terror visited mostly on women.