Open Menu


2014 (Narrative Date)

There are an estimated 1,386,000 people living in modern slavery in Nigeria (GSI 2018). Since 2009, Nigeria’s homegrown Islamist insurgent movement, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, popularly known as Boko Haram, which means “Western Education is Forbidden,” has waged a violent campaign against the Nigerian government in its bid to impose Islamic law. The attacks have increasingly targeted civilians, mainly in the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa. Borno State, the birthplace of Boko Haram, has suffered the highest number of attacks. A range of issues, including widespread poverty, corruption, security force abuse, and longstanding impunity for a range of crimes have created fertile ground in Nigeria for militant armed groups like Boko Haram.

In some cases, women and children are abducted from predominantly Christian areas and forced to convert to Islam. As an attempt to escape, some would pretend to be Muslim. Where forced conversion did not lead to the release of abductees, it usually led to forced marriage to members of Boko Haram. 15-year-old Kamharida* described how a commander in the camp threatened to whip two abducted girls until they agreed to renounce Christianity.

Although we were not whipped, the daily pressure became unbearable, so we agreed [to convert] after five days. On that day, the leader handed us green colored hijabs, gave us new Muslim names, and instructed the other women in the camp to daily teach us Arabic words. A week later, he performed a ceremony, reading out words in Arabic language, and then announced that we were now wedded: my companions to two insurgents in the camp, while I became his wife.

*Not their real name

Narratives provided by Human Rights Watch