A veteran German journalist documents the stories of female survivors of Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram in their own words and in pictures.
In April 2014, Boko Haram exploded in the international consciousness after it kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from the small town of Chibok in northeastern Nigeria. Most of those girls are still missing. But the radical Islamists had been wreaking havoc not only in Nigeria, but in several neighboring countries that share Nigeria’s porous border well before the commando unit took the Chibok girls, and it has continued to do so since. In this powerful, painful, and jarring book, Die Zeit writer Bauer (Crossing the Sea: With Syrians on the Exodus to Europe, 2016) combines his own narrative with the oral testimonies of a number of women who escaped the clutches of Boko Haram after having been kidnapped, usually after violent attacks on their communities. During those attacks, most local men who had not joined the group ended up dead, while women of all ages were taken and usually made to convert and become the wives of the men of Boko Haram. The women featured in this book found their opportunities and escaped, facing harsh local conditions and treacherous paths back to marginal safety. Many only did so after having been impregnated, often as the result of rape, and all have stories of loved ones lost either in the attacks on their villages and towns or during their captivity. All of the contributors display astounding courage. Spyra contributes stark portraits of the women, and Bauer provides vital context to the situation that has not yet found a remedy. His prose is clipped and precise, with no excess ornamentation, an appropriately somber tone to a tragically somber situation.
Not a pleasant read but a vitally important one.