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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. 38-year-old Rayowa* was abducted in April 2014 with five other Christian women and two infants.

As soon as the armed men stopped our vehicle, the men and women identified as Muslims were released to go. They began to insult those of us that confessed to be Christians, calling us pagans, and drove us to a camp in Sambisa forest. They asked us to join the hundreds of women we saw in the camp cooking and cleaning for Muslim prayers or we would get no food. One woman told us we would be spared if we converted to Islam, and she taught us to pray in Arabic language. After watching us pray for four days, they extracted our pledges to instruct our husbands to accept Islam, then drove us to a nearby town. We were each given different sums of money to transport us back home.

*Not their real name

Narrative provided by Human Rights Watch