Aisha, wife of a suspected Boko Haram commander ( Mamman Nur ), has abandoned her family home in Maiduguri, Borno state capital, to rejoin her husband. She went with her child.
The 25-year-old is one of the 70 women and children who finished a nine-month de-radicalization programme in February. They were captured by the army in a raid on the militants’ Sambisa forest base
According to Bintu Yerima, her younger, Aisha took her baby, some of her clothes and vanished after receiving a call from a woman.
“Before she left … she had received a phone call from a woman who was with her (in the programme),” 22-year-old Yerima.
“The woman said that she had returned to the Sambisa forest.”
Bintu added that phone calls to Aisha after she disappeared went unanswered, and her mobile has since been switched off.
Her disappearance has stoked concern about the difficulty of deradicalising and reintegrating women seized by the group.
Eighty-two of the abducted girls were last month swapped with some members of the militant group after negotiations between the federal government and the sect.
One of the released girl was unwilling to return because she had found a husband.
Fatima Akilu, a psychologist and head of the Neem Foundation, an anti-extremism group which ran the state-backed programme, said she had heard that some of the women who were under her care, including Aisha, had gone back to Boko Haram.
She said some of the girls wanted to go back because they felt at home and powerful even while in captivity, adding that another reason could be the shame and trauma that comes from the society.
“Rehabilitation, reintegration is a long process … complicated by the fact we have an active, ongoing insurgency.” Akilu said.
“When you have fathers, husbands, sons and brothers who are still in the movement, they (the women) want to be reunited … to go back to a place where they feel they belong.”
Thousands of girls and women have been abducted by Boko Haram since 2009 – most notably the more than 200 Chibok girls snatched one night from their school in April 2014 – with many of them used as cooks, sex slaves, and even suicide bombers.
Yet some of these women, like Aisha, say they managed to gain respect, influence and standing within the militant group.
Aisha reportedly told the Thomson Reuters Foundation earlier this year that other women kidnapped by Boko Haram were given to her as “slaves” because she was married to a leading militant.
Seduced by the power, and disenchanted with the domestic drudgery of their everyday lives, women are far more difficult than men to deradicalise and reintegrate into their communities, said Akilu, who called for more support for the former captives.
“Women often come out successful from deradicalisation programmes, but they struggle in the community,” Akilu said.
“Some face a lot of stigma. They feel like pariahs.”
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