Nigerians on Tuesday joined marches and prayer services in memory of the more than 200 teenage girls who were abducted by Islamist group Boko Haram a year ago.
During the night of April 14, 2014, insurgents kidnapped 276 students from their school dormitory in the town of Chibok, in north-eastern Borno State. About 50 of them managed to escape, but there has been no trace of the others.
Supporters of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, launched to raise global awareness about the abduction, will march to the Federal Ministry of Education in the capital Abuja.
In addition, separate marches by school girls are expected to take place in the capital and other cities, including Lagos. There will also be walkathons and prayer services.
Boko Haram, which seeks to establish a state with its very strict interpretation of Islamic law, has killed an estimated 14,000 people since 2009.
At least 2,000 women and girls have been abducted by the insurgents in the past 15 months, with many of them being trained to fight, human rights group Amnesty International said Tuesday.
Young women and girls are abducted, imprisoned and in some cases raped, forcibly married and made to participate in armed attacks, sometimes on their own towns and villages, the group said in a report based on almost 200 witness accounts.
A 19-year-old girl, Aisha, told Amnesty how she was abducted during a wedding in September along with her sister, the bride and the bride’s sister.
Boko Haram took them to a camp in the town of Gulak in Adamawa State where the bride and the bride’s sister were forced to marry insurgents, while Aisha and about 100 other women and girls were taught how to fight.
“I was among the girls trained to shoot. I was also trained how to use bombs and how to attack a village,” said Aisha. “Then they started sending some of us to operations. I went on one operation to my own village.”
During three months of captivity, she was raped, sometimes by groups of up to six fighters, the teenager said. She also saw Boko Haram kill about 50 people, including her sister.
Amnesty documented war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Boko Haram, including the killing of at least 5,500 civilians in north-east Nigeria in the past 15 months.
Boko Haram has killed an estimated 14,000 people since 2009.
Boko Haram would take the women and girls they abducted directly to camps or move them to houses in towns and villages and indoctrinate them with their version of Islam in preparation for marriage.
Men and boys are regularly conscripted or executed.
Boko Haram attacked and raided at least 300 towns and villages in the past 15 months, according to the report. The insurgents target the military or police, capture arms and ammunition which they then use against civilians.
They would shoot anyone trying to escape, rounding up and executing men of fighting age.
Alhaji, 18, told Amnesty he had been captured and was waiting to be killed after Boko Haram took over the town of Madagali on December 14.
“They killed 27 people in front of me. I was counting every one of them because I wanted to know when my turn would come,” said Alhaji, adding that at least 100 men who refused to join the terrorists were executed that day.
A 15-year-old boy, spared due to his disability, said he witnessed ten stonings.
“They stone them to death on Fridays. They will gather all the children and ask them to stone. I participated in the stoning,” the boy said. “They will dig a hole, bury all the body and stone the head. When the person dies, they will leave the stones until the body decays.”