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She Was Kidnapped a Decade In the past With 275 Women. Lastly, She Escaped.


Saratu Dauda had been kidnapped. It was 2014, she was 16, and she or he was in a truck packed along with her classmates heading into the bush in northeastern Nigeria, a member of the terrorist group Boko Haram on the wheel. The women’ boarding faculty in Chibok, miles behind them, had been set on hearth.

Then she observed that some women had been leaping off the again of the truck, she stated, some alone, others in pairs, holding palms. They ran and hid within the scrub because the truck trundled on.

However earlier than Ms. Dauda might leap, she stated, one lady raised the alarm, shouting that others had been “dropping and working.” Their abductors stopped, secured the truck and continued towards what, for Ms. Dauda, would show a life-changing 9 years in captivity.

“If she hadn’t shouted that, we might have all escaped,” Ms. Dauda stated in a collection of interviews this previous week within the metropolis of Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram’s violent insurgency.

Kidnapped from their dormitory precisely 10 years in the past, the 276 captives often known as the Chibok Women had been catapulted to fame by Michelle Obama, by church buildings that took up the largely Christian college students’ trigger and by campaigners utilizing the slogan “Carry Again Our Women.”

“The one crime of those women was to go to highschool,” stated Allen Manasseh, a youth chief from Chibok who has spent years pushing for his or her launch.

Their lives have taken wildly totally different turns for the reason that abduction. Some escaped virtually instantly; 103 had been launched a number of years later after negotiations. A dozen or so now stay overseas, together with in america. As many as 82 are nonetheless lacking, maybe killed or nonetheless held hostage.

Chibok was the primary mass kidnapping from a faculty in Nigeria — however removed from the final. At the moment, kidnapping — together with of enormous teams of youngsters — has change into a enterprise throughout the West African nation, with ransom funds the principle motivation.

“The tragedy of Chibok performs again and again each week,” stated Pat Griffiths, a spokesman with the Worldwide Committee of the Pink Cross in Maiduguri.

The Chibok Women are solely essentially the most distinguished victims of a 15-year battle with Islamist militants which, regardless of the lots of of 1000’s of individuals killed and thousands and thousands uprooted, has largely been forgotten amid different wars.

Greater than 23,000 individuals in northeastern Nigeria are registered as lacking with the Pink Cross — globally, its second greatest caseload after Iraq. However that may be a huge underestimate, Mr. Griffiths stated.

Earlier than she was kidnapped, Ms. Dauda stated, she was a contented teenager in a big, close-knit Christian household. She liked enjoying with dolls and dreamed of changing into a designer. She was her father’s pet and adored her mom.

For months after being captured, Ms. Dauda stated, the women slept outdoors within the Sambisa forest, Boko Haram’s hide-out, listened to a gentle stream of Islamic preachers and fought over restricted water provides. When two women tried to flee, she stated, they had been whipped in entrance of the others.

Then, she stated, they got a alternative: Get married or change into a slave who may very well be summoned for home tasks or intercourse.

Ms. Dauda selected marriage, transformed to Islam and adjusted her first identify to Aisha. She was offered with a person in his late 20s whose job was to shoot video of Boko Haram’s battles. Hours after they met, they had been married.

He was not merciless to her, she stated, however after a number of months, he got here house at some point and located her enjoying with a doll she had original out of clay and made a gown for.

“You’re enjoying with idols? You wish to trigger me issues?” she remembered him saying. She acquired indignant and left their house, staying with one other lady from Chibok. When he realized she was not returning, she stated, he divorced her.

She quickly married one other Boko Haram fighter, Mohamed Musa, a welder who made weapons, and over time they’d three kids. Though she was nonetheless a hostage of Boko Haram’s murderous chief, Abubakar Shekau, and his henchmen, she stated that they got every little thing they wanted, surrounded by individuals “who cared about one another like a household,” and that she was glad.

The Chibok Women had been handled much better than different kidnap victims, different escapees have stated.

Her husband stated in an interview final week that Ms. Dauda refused to hitch the cohort of Chibok Women freed in 2017 after authorities negotiations.

“There have been lots of them that refused to be taken house just because they feared that their household would drive them out of Islam,” stated Mr. Musa, or that “they is likely to be stigmatized.”

However because the years glided by, Ms. Dauda stored observe of the buddies from Chibok who died. Sixteen in air raids and bomb assaults. Two in childbirth. One as a suicide bomber, coerced by Boko Haram. Certainly one of illness, and one among snakebite. She observed that it was largely ladies and kids dying within the air raids and puzzled when it could be her flip.

And life grew to become more durable. When Boko Haram’s chief died and its highly effective offshoot, Islamic State West Africa Province, took over within the Sambisa forest, Ms. Dauda and her husband discovered themselves on the incorrect facet, she stated, and beneath suspicion. They frightened they might be made slaves. Late at night time, in whispers, they talked about escape. However Ms. Dauda wished to behave quicker than her husband and determined to go forward. He refused to let her take the kids, saying he would comply with with them later.

One night time at 3 a.m. she made a little bit bundle of meals, seemed on the faces of her sleeping daughters and stated a brief prayer for his or her safety. She ducked out of their house. She waited beneath a tree, checking that no person had seen her. Then she walked for days by the bush, going from village to village, telling individuals she was on her option to go to associates and all the time leaving throughout morning prayer, when the boys can be within the mosque and never see her going.

Boko Haram’s chief, Abubakar Shekau, in a video launched in 2018.Credit score…by way of Agence France-Presse — Getty Photographs

She met up with different fleeing ladies on the best way, and final Might, they handed themselves over to the army collectively. She had heard on the radio that the Chibok Women had change into a trigger célèbre, and eventually she skilled it.

“Is that this a Chibok Lady?” she remembered a soldier marveling, when he discovered her id. “We’re thanking God.”

It had been six years for the reason that final negotiated launch, and lots of households had given up hope. Mr. Manasseh stated he despaired over time as three governments didn’t convey all the women house and largely stopped speaking to the households.

“Silence,” he stated. “It’s a large authorities failure.”

Since Chibok, Nigerian faculties have change into a looking floor for kidnappers of all stripes. In simply one among many such cases, final month dozens — or presumably lots of — of youngsters had been kidnapped in Kaduna State, lots of of miles from territory managed by Boko Haram and its Islamic State offshoot. A couple of days earlier, lots of of girls and kids had been kidnapped within the northeast whereas foraging for firewood.

After surrendering, Ms. Dauda was taken to Maiduguri and enrolled within the authorities rehabilitation program, for counseling and deradicalization. A couple of months later, she acquired phrase that her husband had escaped with their three daughters, and so they had been all reunited.

She stated she had dreamed of seeing her dad and mom once more, holding them, feeling their heat. Someday, she was allowed out of the federal government facility along with her kids, to go to them of their village, Mbalala.

She hugged her father and her mom.

“She was crying, and I used to be crying,” Ms. Dauda stated.

Her father supplied her and her husband a spot to remain in the event that they grew to become Christians, she stated. However she refused, saying she had change into a Muslim freely and wished to remain one, even when many individuals thought that she and different escapees had been victims of Boko Haram’s indoctrination.

“I used to be not brainwashed,” she stated. “I used to be satisfied by what was defined to me.”

Two of her daughters are named for her associates from Chibok. Zannira, 7, was named for a woman who escaped. 5-year-old Sa’adatu is called for one nonetheless in captivity.

Not too long ago, she stated, her husband gave their women a doll.



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