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THE EVOLUTION OF BOKO HARAM AND THE ROLE OF CITIZENS

BY ROMMY MOM

Beginnings of Boko Haram

It is widely believed that the movement started out as a pious and strict way of Islam intended to guarantee paradise after death in the midst of worldly and earthy distractions. Not many people are aware that this ideology became so popular in Nigeria’s North East that even some government officials joined in the movement and supported it in order to be seen as holy and pious people.

With time, the movement became powerful enough to start enforcing its way of life on many, demanding zero tolerance to anything western. Some government officials resigned to comply with this directive while others saw the price as too heavy to pay just to belong. Originally known as “Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad,” which in Arabic means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad” this coinage was soon shortened by locals to the simpler, “Boko Haram” which, loosely translated, means, “Western education is forbidden.” Those who refused to team up with the extremists were viewed as uncommitted Muslims.

Extra judicial punishment in the form of brutal killings was soon meted out on those who resisted these teachings, especially persons of other faiths. Early violence was targeted at non-believers with Churches targeted particularly on holy days such as Easter and Christmas when attendance was heavy. Perhaps the initial plan was to plunge Nigeria into a religious war. The reluctance or inability of Christians to pay back in kind thwarted this move thereby frustrating the movement in that regard.

The now notorious cult, which began its insidious existence during the Obasanjo administration (2002), was rendered a crushing defeat by the state under YarAdua when it appeared to be challenging the power of the state. However, instead of a well strategized and carefully executed investigation which would perhaps have unearthed the roots of the cult, defeat was meted out on extreme grounds of extra judicial killings, with the arrest and execution of the group’s founding leader, Mohammed Yusuf, who was killed in police custody in 2009.

This act caused the group to run off into the forest (Sambisa) and quietly continue living their “pious” lives while burning with anger and resentment with a view to vengeance. They soon regrouped under a new and more vile leadership, that of the so called Abubakar Shekau.

 

Growth and Notoriety

Having regrouped, the cult, now bent on establishing an Islamic state, quietly developed networks with other extremist Islamic groups, first across Africa and eventually, beyond. How Nigeria’s intelligence missed this is the wonder. Indeed, the efficiency with which the group was able to muster heavy military weapons and machinery speaks volumes about how incredibly weak Nigeria’s government systems were calling to question how the weapons were brought into the country and safely delivered to the terrorists without raising suspicion. These weapons included armored personnel carriers, surface to air missiles and other weapons even Nigeria’s military lacked.

On the anniversary of their leader’s assassination, the group announced its desire to commemorate his death. Not knowing the extent of the group’s preparedness and the seriousness of their threats, the Borno state government (the state that has since gained notoriety as the “home” of BH) assured citizens that there was nothing to worry about and urged them to go about their normal businesses. Underestimating BH turned out to be a big mistake.

On the day of the “commemoration,” gun wielding members of BH stormed the city of Maiduguri, mowing down any Christian policemen in sight, leading to police officers taking off their uniforms and begging for their lives. It was to be the first of many well primed attacks.

The state’s meek reaction did nothing to help and the sect waxed stronger over time, killing at will, bombing prime state targets across the country, including the Police headquarters and the UN office both in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory. Still the state, this time under Goodluck Jonathan, failed to fully comprehend how powerful the rag tag group had grown to be.

BH eventually went as far as conquering and seizing territories, declared its independence from Nigeria and killed citizens at will, at this point, not minding religious inclination. Schools were targeted and children killed for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The Buni Yadi massacre in Yobe state was carried out at night in an all-boys school. Shortly afterwards, an estimated 300 girls were abducted from their school, also at night. A few of them managed to escape when one of the vehicles they were being carted off in broke down.

This incident finally turned international attention to Nigeria, when the army first of all lied that the abducted girls had been rescued, then when the abduction was followed by inaction by the state. To this day, one and a half years later, there are still groups demanding for the return of the girls, now known as the Chibok girls. An estimated 200 may have been sold into slavery or forcefully married off to total strangers as Shekau at the time threatened.

Their actual fate remains unknown.

 

Reaction of the state

After the brutal subjugation of the movement by the Yar Adua administration, subsequent dealings by the state lacked any form of decisiveness. State reaction portrayed total lack of political will to deal definitively with the terrorists, leading to a state of general insecurity, not just in the region but across the country, thereby giving the group a larger-than-life reputation.

While the terrorist group wreaked havoc in Nigeria’s North East and the neighboring West African countries of Chad, Niger, and Mali, unscrupulous elements within the government and the military saw the insurgency as a means of making money and corruptly enriching themselves. Monies intended for equipping the military were diverted to personal use, while a poorly armed, poorly motivated military was sent out to tackle a better armed, better, motivated and better organized opponent. The battles ended with Nigeria’s military massacred in huge numbers and the people of the region killed in a pogrom of a sort never before witnessed in the land.

Over 15,000 lives have been lost, while a mutiny within the army, owing to lack of weapons and machinery was decisively dealt with by imprisonment even as corruption continued to thrive and the country bled. It has since been speculated that a 5th column was identified within the army and that some of the sponsors were known to those in power and yet to BH remained a menace.

In the run up to the 2015 elections, the ability of the APC Candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, to definitively articulate issues such as Corruption and Security, and the way these messages resonated with the electorate forced the sitting government to finally see BH as an electoral albatross that could lead to its defeat. Elections were quickly postponed to deal with BH, but lacking any concise operational plan, weapons were hastily put together and indiscriminate air strikes commenced in territories held by BH. While the group was indeed pushed back, the collateral damage was equally huge especially in the civilian population.

This last ditch attempt at stopping BH, while the most impressive, did nothing to help the Goodluck administration as the people’s minds were already made up. Elections eventually threw out the government and installed Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, whose credentials as a long serving military man were seen as the right qualification for a Nigerian leader hoping to rout BH.

 

The Citizen

The present administration is now engaging BH in a more constructive and intelligent manner, strengthening alliances with neighboring countries, gathering intelligence and launching offensive strikes, while curbing corruption within the system and motivating soldiers.

The results are commendable as Nigeria is now on the offensive as opposed to BH being on the offensive, which was the situation in the past, and practically all Nigerian territories have been reclaimed. This has led to a new approach by the terrorists, bombing of soft targets within the communities, markets, viewing centers, IDP camps etc.

Intelligence can help neutralize these attacks and this is where the role of the citizen is key. The new wave of terrorism in Nigeria can NEVER be won except the citizen steps up and engages.

Intelligence is not obtained from thin air but by citizens being observant and reporting suspicious movements and or circumstances in their surroundings. In the past, those who did report such things found themselves under attack, the information having been somehow leaked to the terrorists. Perhaps this was led to the situation we now face where some of these communities have taken to shielding the terrorists and some even contributing their children to the “cause.” There are also those who genuinely believe the extremists are trying to promote an Islamic agenda and as such have developed genuine sympathies for them leading to them cooperating with the group and shielding them from the prying eyes of the authorities.

Interestingly enough, as operations against the group have continued, it has become obvious that though members of the group claim to be Muslims trying to establish an Islamic state, a good number of them know nothing about the religion itself other than what they have been brain washed by the master minds into believing. It is said that a good number of them neither pray nor can recite vital parts of the Quran. One then begins to wonder what the real motivation or trigger behind the movement is.

Attempts by the Jonathan administration at various points in time to establish contact with the group and determine their demands produced woeful results. Unlike other terrorist groups in Nigeria which made concrete demands on government, BH’s demands were unrealistic and speak of a lack of focus. The group is believed to have demanded that Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, convert to Islam, a request which of course went unattended to.

There is a real need for some of Behavior Change Communication strategy to be embarked upon to enlighten Muslims of the real intentions of the group which has little to do with promoting Islam and everything to do with spreading hate and fear. There is a need to send out educational passionate educational messages, suing passages from the Quran to counter the poisonous messages being spread by the terrorists.

These could be in the form of radio/TV messages, billboards, online broadcasts and so on. After all, the fight is against an ideology. There is therefore a serious need to work on the minds of those who are vulnerable to get them to understand that the ideology of the terrorists is warped at best. This is one of the ways in which the state can help the citizens to decide on doing what is right.

Regarding the fear of being outed after passing intelligence to security agents, the current government seems genuinely concerned about curbing the excesses of BH as can be seen by the fact that the service chiefs are now stationed right at the battle front and have been seen at the frontlines with their men. This is a clear sign that the status quo has changed and people can now trust the security agents.

“Small” things like strange faces, tenants who would rather keep to themselves, vehicles haphazardly laden with gas cylinders and driven in populated areas, etc. as normal as they appear, could be clues. A tip off to security agencies may lead to saving of scores of lives.

People acting suspiciously in crowded environments such as markets, schools, malls, Churches should be carefully observed and if possible questioned. Unattended bags should not be poked or touched. Very rickety cars driven to a crowded spot and abandoned are also suspect.

The need to create awareness amongst community leaders on how to spot suspected terrorists can’t be over emphasized. It is very important for the purposes of stepping the messages down to members of the community in languages they will understand and be made to understand how this strategy could save us all.

If we can successfully push for and achieve the measures outlined above, then we can truly begin to say with confidence that the days of BH in Nigeria are numbered.

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Posted by on October 12, 2015 in Governance, Human Rights

 

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ABDUCTED AND RESCUED WOMEN: LAWYERS ALERT AND SCAIN PARTNER TO SEEK SOLUTION TO RESCUED WOMEN’S DILEMMA EVEN AS BOKO HARAM STILL KICKS

Nigerians were generally jubilant when news of the rescue of large groups of women abducted by Boko Haram broke. Prior to that many had been under the impression that the Chibok girls were the only casualties of kidnap attacks. Those people probably had not kept up with the news as there were weekly reports of such abductions long before the Chibok scandal ever made international headlines. However, owing to the peculiar circumstances of those abducted (predominantly illiterate), their stories, like those of so many others in the North East particularly, became a subject for mournful head-shaking accompanied by a vigorous lack of action on the part of the then Goodluck Jonathan administration. After all, compared to the scenario where entire villages were decimated by the marauders with no consequences, the matter of random abductions seemed to pale in comparison.

The rescued women ranged from children, to young adolescents, adults and the aged. All had been subjected to gruesome hardship while most had been sexually molested or suffered some form of slavery through the duration of captivity. All were traumatised. While some chose to brave the challenges and returned to their original communities, many have had to be accommodated in IDP camps owing to the lack of safety in their communities and their own fear of returning there. Others fled their states and are living on the run in other parts of the country where their safety is equally a matter for debate. Though some of the rescued women have been housed in IDP camps, their situation is quite different from those of other IDPs having been taken and kept against their will by terrorists. This is not intended to demean the sufferings of the other IDPs but the circumstances for both sets of women are distinct and require different approaches.

The rescued women should, by now, be receiving adequate mental and psychological care and counselling to checkmate the damage done from the dehumanising treatment meted out to them in captivity. There is also the possibility, which has so far not really been explored, that some of these women may very well be Boko Haram sympathisers now having been brainwashed into accepting the violent ideology preached by these terrorists. Known as Stockholm syndrome, the possibility of a captive developing a bond with their captor is a common occurrence and could pose a further security threat.

Incidentally, these camps which should ordinarily have been a safe haven for these rescued women has thrown up unique challenges with some totally unanticipated. It is common to hear of soldiers in conflict situations taking advantage of women sexually but what about the civilian population drawn from government etc that have been put in charge of administering these camps? Investigations reveal that officials of a certain government agency have been found wanting in the discharge of their duties. Not only have the women accused them of withholding relief materials except when offered sexual gratification, the same officials have also been accused of brutally raping these same women, a good number of whom are already pregnant, nursing mothers or have suffered one of form of trauma or another at the hands of their captors. As soon as the stories started filtering out, government’s response was to restrict access to the IDP camps to such an extent that the entire process is now mired in huge wads of red tape thereby discouraging external eyes and ears.

Not only is access to the IDP camps now extremely restricted, quite a few of the camps have been disbanded and moved to parts unknown practically overnight. Additionally, the trauma of being molested by those who are supposed to be protecting them has led these women to a place of general suspicion of the motives of any outsiders desiring to help.

Their situation is dire. In addition to physical and mental health challenges, a good number are pregnant and some do not want these babies. Now that access to them is so severely limited, what happens? Will we be facing cases of infanticide as babies mysteriously die or get discarded by mothers who do not want them? Away from this troubling scenario, we also encounter the dilemma of stigma and discrimination, a very real danger as these women struggle to overcome the shadow of Boko Haram.

This issue of stigma and discrimination is one which must not be taken lightly. These women face the challenge of being ostracised by their communities even if they do return. In the event they do not, they cannot live in the camps indefinitely, what happens to those who, after the camps are disbanded, cannot go back to their communities? What about those who have fled their states of origin and are currently living in illegal IDP camps in other parts of the country? What provision are the governments of those states making to ensure their safety and possible resettlement?

These are just some of the challenges Lawyers Alert and SCAIN, are trying to get answers to with support from the Urgent Action Fund for Africa, UAFA. So far, a meeting of crucial stakeholders has been held with a view to charting a direction, with hopes of passing resolutions to the authorities. The aim is to impress upon government its role in this crisis and also proffer solutions for the women rescued from the captives. The document will be available for public consumption on this page as soon as it is fully developed and submitted to relevant authorities.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2015 in Women Rights and Gender

 

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Beyond Boko Haram: Nigeria’s hidden crisis

 By Obinna Anyadike

Security and humanitarian priorities – out of kilter?

NAIROBI, 5 June 2015 (IRIN) – The Nigerian government’s focus on its war against the Boko Haram insurgency is obscuring a growing humanitarian emergency.

The violence has driven at least 1.5 million people from their homes in the three conflict-affected northeastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. The vast majority have been taken in by friends and relatives in the main cities, but the hospitality has imposed a significant burden on their hosts.

“People are stressed. People are tired. Things are very difficult,” said Mustapha Zannah, a lawyer in the region’s largest city Maiduguri who at the beginning of the year was sheltering one family and has since added four more.

The insecurity has disrupted farming and markets across the northeast, with an inevitable impact on food availability. Between July and September, areas of southern Yobe, central and northern Borno, northern Adamawa and greater Maiduguri will face “emergency” levels of food shortages, one step below famine, according to the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Network (FEWS Net).

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has reported projections of more than three million people in need. Nigeria is also the breadbasket for neigbouring countries, and a poor harvest will have a knock-on effect for the traditionally food insecure Sahelian region.

Ring the alarm
“It’s a really scary assessment. Even if people get access to their fields there are no seeds, and there is drought in some areas. We could be looking as far as September 2016 before food security normalises,” Sarah Ndikumana, country director of the International Relief Committee, told IRIN.

“We need to be ringing the alarm bell,” said Elizabeth Rushing, West Africa analyst at the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. “There is an urgent need to scale up the humanitarian response.”

Despite the military’s recent successes against Boko Haram, people are still on the move as a result of continuing, guerrilla-style attacks. Most are heading to the relative safety of Maiduguri, which is hosting 592,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) – one-third of all IDPs in the north.

“Should the roads open up, there would be a rush to Maiduguri,” said Ndikumana. “The reality is that Boko Haram is far from defeated.”

IDPs in Maiduguri – host communities are stretched

Roughly 90 percent of all IDPs are staying within the community rather than the 42 sites run by the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA). The agency is struggling to provide even minimum support to those in its care. While the majority of IDPs receive food rations, the sites – often public buildings, like schools – are overcrowded and lack proper sanitation and health services.

The problem is not one of resources – Nigeria is after all a middle-income country – or a lack of good intentions: NEMA simply lacks the experience and capacity to handle a crisis of this magnitude, aid workers say.

The United Nations and the big international NGOs, which do have the skills, have been largely absent from the northeast. “The international community has been dragging its feet since the beginning,” said Rushing. “The response to the crisis has been slow and fragmented.”

Boko Haram changed its tactics in July last year from hit-and-run attacks to holding territory. In the areas the jihadist group controlled, the damage to infrastructure has been immense – from health posts to bridges and wells. “In some areas, the destruction is 80 percent,” said NEMA spokesman, Sani Datti.

Taking a chance
He denied allegations that Nigeria’s previous government, eager to show it was winning the war and concerned that Boko Haram may have infiltrated the cities in the guise of IDPs, had pushed people to return home. “We can’t tell people to go back when there is nothing there,” he said.

“I don’t know the plan of the new government, but all returns should be voluntary and secure,” said Stephanie Daviot, displacement matrix tracking project officer for the International Organization for Migration.

In areas where the conflict has eased, such as Adamawa State, some people are preferring to take the chance of returning to their communities rather than endure the frustrations of squatting in an IDP camp or the compound of a relative, with little opportunity in either case to earn an income.

“But even though some areas are now calmer, we still see [Boko Haram] incidents, and some areas still have landmines,” Daviot told IRIN. A humanitarian assessment is planned in all three states on 22 June, involving the UN and NEMA, under military escort.

President Muhammadu Buhari won an election victory in March on his perceived ability to defeat Boko Haram, and the promise of a Marshall Plan for the northeast. “How you prioritise humanitarian needs with security needs is a key question,” said Ndikumana.

For Zannah, the lawyer in Maiduguri who also runs a school for orphan children, “the government is only talking about security, leaving people to wallow on their own. Nobody is talking about IDPs or trying to understand their problems.”

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2015 in Governance, Human Rights

 

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Nigeria’s president must prosecute crimes by rebels, army: U.N

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations’ top human rights official called on Nigeria’s new President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday to investigate reports of horrifying crimes by Boko Haram Islamist rebels and alleged abuses by the military.

Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein said he had seen allegations of mass executions, rape and amputations of children by Boko Haram – a day after two blasts killed more than 30 people in the group’s northeast heartland.

There were also reports Nigeria armed forces had mistreated people detained on suspicion of belonging to the group, he added.

“Civilians in northeast Nigeria have been living through horrifying acts of cruelty and violence by Boko Haram. These include wanton killings, summary executions, forced participation in military operations – including the use of children to detonate bombs, forced labour, forced marriage and sexual violence, including rape,” Zeid said in a statement.

Buhari, who was sworn in a week ago, said on Wednesday that Nigeria’s army will take a bigger role in the effort to crush Boko Haram, by taking over from soldiers from Niger in occupying towns liberated from the Islamist militant group.

Zeid, citing eyewitness testimony gathered by his office on atrocities committed by Boko Haram, said: “We have reports of children who were suspected of theft and had their hands amputated, of a man stoned to death on accusations of fornication, mass executions of captives whose hands and legs were bound and who were dumped into rivers and wells.”

At least 1,000 people, “possibly many more,” were brutally killed by Boko Haram in Mararaba Madagali in Adamawa State in late 2014, the statement said.

Other witnesses described how insurgents asked villagers in Kwajafa in Borno state in April to gather to hear them preach.

“When the villagers gathered, the insurgents opened fire. The U.N. Human Rights Office has also received a video recording of an execution, allegedly of a girl who refused to convert to Islam.”

Zeid, referring to “extremely worrying reports” that had emerged about the conduct of Nigerian armed forces, said one man testified about his ordeal when he was mistaken for a Boko Haram member and detained by the military in Yola in Adamawa.

“The man said he spent five days without food or water, as detainees drank the urine of others to quench their thirst. He claimed that there was an average of five deaths per day in the facility,” he said.

There was no immediate comment from the Nigerian government or armed services.

 

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DILEMMAS REGARDING THE PREGNANT VICTIMS OF THE BOKO HARAM ATROCITIES AND POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: AN ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE

Abridged paper developed by the Da’wah Institute of Nigeria (DIN) of the Islamic Education Trust

(IET) Minna, and the Development Initiative of West Africa (DIWA) in May, 2015.

PREAMBLE

Following the good news of the rescue of some of the women who were abducted by Boko Haram members, it soon became known that many of them had been raped and are currently in different stages of pregnancy. Varying opinions have been expressed regarding what the women should do about their situation i.e. whether or not to terminate the pregnancies; whether or not to raise the children themselves if they carry the pregnancies to term. While these women have been victims of Boko Haram, they are really ‘survivors’ and that is how they will be referred to in this paper.

The paper was written with two objectives in mind.

. To discuss the alternatives available to the women who have gotten pregnant as a result of being raped by Boko Haram members

. Using the principles and objectives of Islamic jurisprudence as guidelines, make some suggestions on how the government, Muslim community and the society in general should respond to the situation

This focus is in no way intended to belittle the suffering of those others who have been killed, injured, violated or displaced by the Boko Haram. We pray for Allah’s guidance, mercy and forgiveness where we might be wrong.

 

HANDLING THE SITUATION FACED BY SURVIVORS OF BOKO HARAM ACTIVITIES

Many people within and outside Nigeria have been direct or indirect victims of the atrocities committed by Boko Haram. The focus of this paper is the women who became pregnant after having been raped by Boko Haram members during their period of captivity. The conditions of these women should call for our compassion and empathy. Their situation should not be turned into an opportunity for politicizing ethnic, political or religious alliances. It should not be converted into an arena for fault-finding and laying a blame game. Rather, the effort of all interested parties should be concentrated on articulating creative ways of bringing relief to them and facilitating more effective ways of providing genuine support.

OUR GUIDING VALUES AND PRINCIPLES

In addressing the dilemma presented by the plight of the women raped by Boko Haram members, we should bear in mind the saying of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): “None of you is (true) believer unless he loves for his brother (or sister) what he loves for himself”. Consequently, we should dislike for others any proposition, or policy that we would dislike for ourselves if we were in their situation. It is in such times of trial where honour and emotional wellbeing are at stake that divine values of godliness, selflessness, love and sacrifice are needed the most. All forms of intervention should try and achieve the twin objectives (maqasid) of bringing relief and removing suffering, of promoting the common good (jalb al-masalih) and removing harm and vice (dar’ al-mafasid). The tragedy faced by our pregnant sisters should be handled with the utmost level of compassion, fairness, wisdom and sensitivity irrespective of their faith or ethnicity. Our primary concern should be their emotional and mental wellbeing.

MOVING FORWARD: THREE POSSIBLE ALTERNATIVES

There are at least three options that may be considered by the woman who is pregnant as a result of having been raped.

  1. The Option Of Abortion Before The Lapse Of 4 Months (Or 120 Days)

In the 1990’s in Algeria, about 200 women who were raped by members of a violent extremist sect became pregnant. The prominent Saudi scholar Sheikh Muhammad bin Salih bin al-Uthaimeen was asked about the options available for the women under Islamic jurisprudence. In his fatwah (religious verdict), he responded that abortion was permissible if done before the end of the first 120 days. (See Saleem bin Eid Al-Hilai, Qurat al-Uyun, Maktabat al-Furqan, Ajman, 1422AH, p.234-235).

This fatwah is based on an interpretation of an authentic hadith of the Prophet (pbuh) reported in Bukhari and Muslim which indicates that while the foetus is a living being, the soul or spirit (ruh) is breathed into it only after the end of this period. Scholars of the Hanafi School of Islamic Jurisprudence (madhhab) along with a few others have therefore regarded abortion before the 120 days period as not prohibited by any clear explicit text of the Qur’an or Sunnah. This also so because the foetus at that very early stage of pregnancy has not yet reached the age of being referred to in the terminology of the Qur’an and Sunnah, as a “child” (walad) whose life is sacred. (See Alah al-Deen al-Kasani, Badai’ al-Sannai’ fi Tartib al-Sharai’, Dar al-Kitab al-Arabi, Beirut, 1982, Vol.7, p.325)

There is a general consensus among Muslim scholars on the prohibition of abortion after this 120 day period – except for reasons such as a threat to the life of the mother. Scholars however have differed in their opinions about the permissibility of abortion before the end of 120 days. (See al-Mawsu’ah al-

Fiqhiyyah, Dar Salasil, Kuwait, 1414AH, Vol.2, p.57) Sanity or the “preservation of the mind” (hifz al-‘aql) is one of the fundamental objectives (maqasid) of Islamic law. The difference of opinion on the matter of

abortion is presented here also because the mental and emotional health of the pregnant mother is of vital importance to Shari’ah and all concerned. A woman who has been a survivor of rape could go insane or into deep depression if forced to keep a pregnancy from a rapist.

  1. The Option Of Foster Care

If the pregnancy is more than 120 days old, or the woman chooses not to abort the pregnancy before the 120 days have elapsed, she can decide to send the child into foster care or to be raised by someone ready to take on the responsibilities of a child who is effectively an orphan.

This is especially so if the woman cannot or does not want to bear the psychological or social challenges associated with raising the child. The decision regarding an alternative home for such a child must be based on what is in the best interest of the child, as the child did not choose to be in that situation.

The prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “I and whoever takes charge of an orphan, whether his own or of others shall be in paradise like this (pointing with his four fingers and the middle finger)” (Sahih al-Bukhari). The prophet Muhammad (pbuh) also said: “The best house of the Muslims is the house in which there is an orphan who is treated in the best manner; and the worst house of the Muslims is the house in which an orphan is badly treated” (Ibn Majah).

  1. The Option Of Motherhood And Child-Upbringing

The mother may choose to keep the pregnancy and raise the child to the best of her ability. In the absence of the father, the hadith in Bukhari regarding caring for orphans also applies to this situation – “I and whoever takes charge of an orphan, whether his own or of others shall be in paradise…”

SOCIAL, EMOTIONAL AND ECONOMIC SUPPORT, EMPOWERMENT AND COUNSELING

The decision of what to do about the pregnancy is primarily that of the woman in question. Each of the three options mentioned in this paper has challenges that are peculiar to it. None of the three choices is an easy one to make. The effect of each choice will be felt primarily by one person – the woman concerned. More than anyone else, she will bear the difficulty of undergoing an abortion, or carrying to term a baby conceived in circumstances that are traumatic to her, giving birth to that child and, if she chooses, raising the child. Should she choose to give it up for fostering or adoption, she would still feel the effect of such a choice. Therefore, it would be insensitive to force any choice upon her, or deny her an option which may be the lesser evil as far as she is concerned. Human beings are all different and respond to trauma in diverse ways. It would be wrong to dictate how all the rape victims should handle the resulting pregnancy.

Whatever option the women may choose, the role of their families, care-givers, the community, leaders and the government is to provide necessary counseling, social, emotional and economic support and empowerment opportunities. She should be shown empathy and compassion. If social stigmatization is unavoidable in a particular community, the option of relocation of the family to a friendlier environment should be considered and facilitated, while efforts at preventing and eliminating stigmatization continue.

When the children are born, they should receive the same treatment as any other child and should not suffer any form of discrimination or ill-treatment – they will be born blameless as all human beings are.

PROTECTION OF HUMAN DIGNITY AND HONOR (‘IRD)

One of the major objectives of Islamic law is the protection of human dignity and honor (‘ird). With this in mind, all those offering support and care should show respect for the survivors’ privacy, dignity and safety. They should also show sensitivity to the religious and cultural preferences and norms of the victims. This is particularly important for politicians and people working with the media.

THE CHALLENGE TO OUR HUMANITY, COMPASSION AND FAITH

The litmus test and criteria for true piety and faith in Allah is the extent to which we show sincere compassion towards others. The challenges facing all the survivors of the Boko Haram atrocities are a challenge to us all. It is our prayer that though the government and national leadership were unable to stop the tragedy from befalling our sisters, civil organisations, the government and Muslim leadership will be able and willing to bring an end to their ordeal. We pray that Allah continues to support all those striving to end the Boko Haram tragedy; that He gives strength and faith to all the survivors; that He blesses and protects all their care-givers; and that He continues to guide and forgive us all where we go wrong.

 

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Nigeria: Rescued Boko Haram hostages moved to new location

At least 260 women and children who were rescued from Boko Haram have been moved by the Nigerian military to an undisclosed location, officials said Friday.

They were among several hundred hostages rescued by the military from the Sambisa Forest, a stronghold of the Islamist militant group, in the past month.

Since their rescue, the women and children had been staying at a displaced persons camp in Yola, capital of Nigeria’s northeastern Adamawa state.

But officials with Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency and the Nigerian military said the move to a new location was necessary to enable them to pursue a rehabilitation program and re-enter society.

The transfer took the rescued hostages and their relatives by surprise, according to one witness.

The women and children were ferried in trucks on Tuesday afternoon to the airport, from where they were airlifted to an unknown destination, said Sambo Halliru, a relation of one of the rescued women who was at the camp at the time of the evacuation.

Freed Nigerians speak about captivity

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“We don’t know where they took them to. The women didn’t seem to know where they were being taken to because the soldiers didn’t make any explanation to the women,” Halliru said.

Mohammed Kanar, the coordinator for Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency in the northeast, said 260 women and children had been moved to a location “where they can undergo psychotherapy without distraction.”

Another 15 are still in hospital receiving treatment for injuries sustained during the rescue operation and illness they developed during their long trek to safety, he said.

“The Malkohi camp in its present state is not conducive for that due to uncontrolled visits by relations and members of the public which deprive the rescued women the needed concentration to overcome their trauma induced by their captivity in the hands of Boko Haram‎,” Kanar said, declining to say where the women were moved to for security reasons.

A statement from Nigeria’s military put the number of women and children moved from the camp at 275, but gave a similar reason for the transfer.

The former hostages will now be able to undergo a psychosocial rehabilitation program arranged by the Office of the National Security Adviser in a safe, more conducive location, it said.

The rehabilitation program is part of an initiative by the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, aimed at countering terrorism.

Boko Haram has said its aim is to impose a stricter enforcement of Sharia law across Nigeria, which is split between a majority Muslim north and a mostly Christian south.

More than 2,000 women and girls have been abducted by Boko Haram since last year, according to Amnesty International.

 
 

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