(Extract only. The full article appears here: https://en.unesco.org/news/i-was-abducted-boko-haram
“I was abducted by Boko Haram”
UNESCO, at https://en.unesco.org/news/i-was-abducted-boko-haram
“My name is Assiatou. I’m 15 years old. I’m here to tell you my story, because I was abducted by Boko Haram.”
These were the opening words of a Nigerian teenager telling her story of escape from the clutches of these extremists and who now lives in neighbouring Niger.
Her face covered, and using a false name to protect her true identity, Assiatou told her story: “When the sect came, they took us to a brothel. We were forty. The men selected girls and we were locked up. It was in this place that someone had chosen me as his wife. They insulted our parents and we were abused. They made us believe that our parents were not strong believers and they were there to teach us the Qur’an. A month later I was forced into marriage. This is the worst moment of my life. (…) To combat ignorance, it is essential to go back to school, so I decided to resume my studies. I would like to become a doctor.”
Amina Sa’id, who heads an association that frees abducted women and girls from the minority Yezidi community who were kidnapped in Iraq by Daesh, explained, “Women are the first victims of the wars in the world. They are abused and turned into sex slaves or brainwashed to become suicide bombers.”
The organization she heads has, to date, successfully secured the release of 2000 women and children in individual operations, but estimates that 3000 Yazidis are still under the control of the extremist group in the territory it controls in Mosul and the surroundings areas.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, said women and girls bear a heavy burden. “Women are abused, exposed to sexual slavery, trafficked, forced into early marriages and endure female genital mutilation.” She added, “Against violence we must respond with the most powerful tools we have – education, prevention, awareness. (…) The fight against extremism is played out in the mind of each individual, and education is in the frontline to reinforce the defences of each – along with the ability to reject hatred.”