Over 500 women have been used by Boko Haram as suicide bombers during the decade-long war that has occurred in Nigeria and has spread to three neighboring countries. According to terrorism experts, this number is higher than any other conflict in history. Boko Haram is one of the most lethal terrorist organizations on the planet, particularly to women.
The New York Times has interviewed dozens of women who reported the choice given to them by Boko Haram: “marry” one of the group’s fighters or be a bomber. Some women choose to blow themselves up.
Some women have resisted these deadly efforts, however. Balaraba Mohammed is one of these women, and she had been told to go blow up a mosque. Mohammed and 5 other young women decided to lower their bombs into a well using their hijabs in order to try and avoid killing anyone, including themselves. They told their captors that they had lost their hijabs because they had run so quickly, which was believed.
After forcing the returned women to practice using weapons on live targets, Mohammed was once again sent on another bombing mission with other women captives. Lowering the bombs into a well again, the fighters were surprised they had returned so soon and shot one of the women who was supposed to be the group’s guide.
Boko Haram continues to terrorize Maiduguri, the location of the origin of the movement. Militants killed over 30 people there last month. Boko Haram’s terrorist campaign has displaced over 2 million people since 2009.
Balaraba Mohammed is only one of hundreds of women who were given only bad options. For women who manage to escape and survive Boko Haram, they face stigma when they return; some people believe the women may still be loyal to Boko Haram. Many women face harassment. One of Mohammed’s neighbors told her that it would be best if she were killed.
However Mohammed, like many other forgotten women in this conflict, continues to fight to survive.
Sources: New York Times, 3/13/20; Al Jazeera, 3/4/20.