Malaiku (Angels) Survivors of Boko Haram abduction

I am openly embraced by three young ladies running up to me greeting me as Aunty Ruth. During five years living in northern Nigeria, I have seen many haunted faces, but these girls look different, haunted and also broken. I wanted to photograph them looking like the strong resilient survivors they are, but as they sat slumped in their chairs, I had the heart breaking realisation that at such a young age these beautiful young people have lost their innocence and experienced the worst of humanity They are just a few of the many youth that have been abducted by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. Boko Haram has been rapidly increasing attacks in Northern Nigeria. Sadly young girls and boys have now become a target. Girls are used for tactical reasons and a form of punishment to them and their communities. And hundreds of young boys have been taken to use as fighters, or to train them in the Koran. Up to 500 girls have been abducted since as far back 2009 from the north-eastern Borno and Yobe states. They have been abducted while, travelling on the roads, attending school, working on farms, and from their homes during attacks on villages. They are put through psychological abuse, forced labour, forced marriage, forced to convert to Islam, and become victims of sexual violence and rape. Boko Haram are taking young people on operations and teaching them to carry ammunitions and eventually to kill, even some young girls are now being sent out as suicide bombers. Some have been fortunate to escape however many still remain captive. The Chibok attack on April 14, 2014 was the largest case of abductions, with 276 girls taken, 57 managed to escape. It brought the attention of the world on Nigeria, and to the atrocities carried out by Boko Haram. Escapees of the Chibok attack have received some counselling and educational scholarships however there remains a serious lack of support for girls and boys abducted before and after Chibok. They urgently need post trauma counselling as they struggle with the memories, and many no longer attend school fearing they will be kidnapped again. Many of the girls that escaped are now stigmatised, and often relocate to new towns as they ostracized by their neighbours. It is not uncommon for abuses against children and youth to go unprosecuted in Nigeria. A code of silence prevents justice taking place, robbing them of their rights as the victim. More often than not youth bare the brunt of conflict. Young girls from northern Nigeria; one of the most marginalised and devalued groups in Nigeria, is now the same group that has brought the focus and attention of the world to Nigeria.