Nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped by the Islamic militant group in April 2014, prompting a worldwide campaign to bring them back to their families. After it was reported earlier this year that Nigeria helped rescue over 700 women and girls from separate abductions, 214 of the schoolgirls were also reported to be pregnant.
In an interview with CNN, a Boko Haram victim opened up about her abduction, how she escaped, and the animosity she faces back in her native community.
Um Haleema (her name was changed to protect her identity) was 16-years-old when she was kidnapped. During her six months with the militant group, she was raped and forced into marriage with her abductor. After plotting her escape, she realized she was pregnant with her kidnapper’s child.
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“People in this village are rejecting me because of the pregnancy,” she says. “Some will be happy to have me dead. Many people are even saying that I should go for an abortion.”
Heleema’s mother said that after hearing of one girl who died during her abortion, she decided against it. She and Heleena, who is seven-months along, have placed all their faith in God.
“Anybody captured by Boko Haram is presumed dead,” her mother explains. “They abducted my step-daughter and my daughter. They took a total of seven girls from this house. We heard about one girl who died after she attempted an abortion, losing both the mother and the baby. The girl was the only child to her mother, so that scared us. If God wishes, she will give birth safely. Life is in the hands of God alone.”
Heleema lives with her mother in a vigilante group north of Nigeria. The group’s leader tells CNN he wasn’t aware any girls in the village were impregnated by Boko Haram members.
“I am not aware of any woman in this village who was impregnated by them,” he said. “If any woman is found to be pregnant, in our tradition, the pregnancy is considered Haram (unlawful), hence we cannot accept them wholeheartedly because they can be like baby snakes.”
Heleema’s mother said her child was strong enough to escape Boko Haram and will continue to stay strong for her unborn child.
Since its formation in 2002, the CIA has reported that around 9,000 Boko Haram members are specialized in terror tactics and bombings. Critics of the Islamic State believe the country should zero in on the region’s growing poverty problem to create schools that will educate local Muslims before they are persuaded to join the group.