An estimated 1,300 displaced women from Boko Haram’s birthplace in Nigeria reportedly wrote a letter to the country’s president accusing the African country’s military of raping them and forcing them to exchange sex for food after “wrongly” detaining their husbands and children as suspected members of the jihadist group.
The Nigerian military has denied the allegations, reports the Sahara Reporters news outlet.
According to several Nigerian news agencies, the Borno state women wrote in the March 1 letter addressed to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari:
We were not allowed to leave the camp (managed by soldiers) and not given enough food but instead asked to pay for extra food… when we didn’t have anything left, they asked for sex; young women were to have sex with the Civilian-Joint Task Force (CJTF) members and soldiers to be able to feed their children.
Our story is a story of suffering: In 2015 and 2016, we were kept in the horrific conditions…We were not allowed to leave the camp and were not given enough food but instead, asked to pay for extra food. First, we sold our jewelry. Then we sold our clothes. When we didn’t have anything left, they asked for sex. Young women were to have sex with the Civilian-JTF members and soldiers to be able to feed their children. Rape by the Civilian-JTF and soldiers were rampant.
We were starved and forced to give our bodies in exchange for food. We saw our children die and there was nothing we could do. Hundreds of people lost their lives.
News agencies describe the women as displaced wives and mothers of detained Boko Haram suspects housed at various military jails in Borno state.
In the four-page letter, the women urge the federal government to release their husbands, claiming they are innocent.
Referring to the women, the Sahara Reporters outlet notes:
They claimed the Nigeria military was holding 1,269 persons who are either their husbands or children, on the allegations that they were members of Boko Haram.
The women said their relatives were arrested between July and December 2015. … The women, who are all IDPs [internally displaced persons], … wondered why their husbands and children would be kept in detention for such a long time without trial.
In the letter, the women said they want to cooperate with law enforcement to clear their relatives of any wrongdoing, telling the Nigerian president:
We want to offer our best cooperation to prosecute the real Boko Haram members. But no one has asked us for our statement on what happened in the past years. We are pleading with you to give all victims of this [these] conflicts the opportunity to testify before a court of law.
The women claim the Nigerian military is releasing them back into their communities where Boko Haram jihadists roam free.
“How can those criminals who killed and raped our people be allowed to live amongst us again, while our husbands, who are innocent, are still detained,” they wrote.
The Nigerian military has reportedly denied the accusations.
“That cannot be true,” declared Onyema Nwachukwu, a Nigerian military spokesman, adding:
We don’t keep peoples relatives in custody; those that we have in custody are terrorism or insurgency suspects. And if anyone is not culpable after our investigation, they are released. But those who have been found to have either actively or passively participated in terrorist activities by bearing arms or providing other forms of support to aid terrorism and insurgency are those in custody and would be prosecuted.
In recent months, the Nigerian government has reportedly released hundreds of suspected Boko Haram terrorists whom officials said are “repentant” after undergoing rehabilitation.
Boko Haram jihadists have reportedly killed more than 20,000 people during their eight-year insurgency and displaced thousands of other people in and around Nigeria.