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 ha
Plateaua State NigeriaAll of the young people that were abducted had to move to new cities for security reasons. Plateau State is one of the new homes where some have been re-located to.
Hauwa, 15 yearsIn 2009 during a crisis in Maiduguri city my friend and I were taken by my mothers friend who lived nearby. The woman and her husband were Boko Haram members. The wife locked us inside her house and wanted us to become her â€˜Muslim daughtersâ€™. The woman tried to force me to convert to Islam and change my name, when I refused I would be severely beaten. After one week passing, while the woman was in the house, my friend held a brick and hit the lady in the head, and then we grabbed the house key and locked the woman inside. I ran away back to my house only to discover my father had just been killed during the crisis. The ladies husband impregnated my friend that was with me, so how she has a child born to a Boko Haram member. I no longer live in Abeokuta and I miss my family. I have to work hard so that eventually I can support my mother and my siblings.
Blessing, 19 years. At about 8pm on the 30th of September 2013 Boko Haram came into my brothers room and shot him. They took his wife and put a gun to her head, they asked for all the ladies in the house to come outside. They took me away with my sister and sister in law. When we reached the Boko Haram camp they asked me to denounce Christ and accept Islam, if not they will slaughter me. Out of fear I agreed and then they gave me a hijab to wear. After converting I was then made to married a insurgent called Abul. I suffered so much during the three weeks in that camp. While Boko Haram were outside gather ammunitions a wife of one commander showed me how to escape. I ran away to safety with two other girls.
Martha, !4 yearsOn the 7th of Spetember 2014 while I was travelling to a wedding I was captured by Boko Haram. They killed my brother in law and my sisters fiancÃ©. They carried me and my two sisters to their camp in Gulak. I stayed there for four months. I suffered greatly during this time, sometimes there was not enough food and I hardly bathed. They told me not to walk around outside, and when I did they would beat me, they told me not to talk, and I would talk, so they would beat me, they told me not to sing, I would sing and they would beat me. They taught me how to use a gun, and I went on two operations with them where I would carry ammunitions, but I could never bring myself to kill anyone. I met some of the Chibok girls, and they had been taught to kill people. They tried to force my sister to kill an old man, when she refused they shot her instead, I watched people being slaughtered like ants .They were planning to marry me to one man. A week before the wedding I escaped. I had tried to escape four
MairamaWe stayed in some small hut. Everyday there were plenty of insurgents in the camp carry guns. Eventually one day three of us escaped together.
Ladi I was abducted from my hometown of Gwoza in 2013 while farming. I spent three months in a Boko Haram camp. They were about to slaughter me by slitting my throat. One of them begged me not to resist, so I relented and converted to Islam. I read from a Koran, and they put a veil on me. They made my bride price to be 15,000 naira $75. One day I preteneded to have stomach pains, so an old lady escorted me to a nearby hospital. Once we were in the town, I threatened to turn her into police so she ran and left me there. That is how I escaped. I am not in school anymore and I still remember everything from my experience which is very upsetting.
Hannah, 15 yearsBoko Haram stormed into my house on the night of the 28th of September 2013. I was in a deep sleep, they asked my sister, mother and I to come outside. My father was not around at the time. They asked our names and upon hearing our Christian names they decided to take me away. I am the daughter of a pastor, and at the time I was only 14 years old. When I left the house with them, they burnt a church and then journeyed for two days to reach their camp in the Gwoza hills, it was a long and difficult journey. Once I reached the camp I was forced to join Islam, given a new name and they married to one man. I managed to escape one night with two other girls. I am still struggling with the memories but I am trying to focus and to continue with school and become a business woman.
Hannah We were kept in a room all together, the room next to us was full of ammunitions. Outside Boko Haram members would be praying on their matts. We escaped down several paths through the bush, the bush was scarey.
Mairama, 16 YearsBoko Haram attacked my village and came to my house in the night of 30th September 2013. I was sent to a camp in the Gwoza hills where I spent three weeks in the camp. I would fetch water and cook for the insurgents and spent a lot of time sad and crying. They arranged for me to marry, but I refuse to sleep with the man, so he threatened he would kill me next time. One night a wife of one of the commanders showed the path to escape, so me and two other girls spent two days walking and running through the bush until we reached a safe city. It was just the grace of God that saved me. I am now back in school and would like to become a nurse one day.
Plateaua State NigeriaAll of the young people that were abducted had to move to new cities for security reasons. Plateau State is one of the new homes where some have been re-located to. Many of them slept under trees and train like in this image.
Lydia, 1994I was travelling in a public bus after paying my school fees on the 7th May 2013, while on the road a Boko haram member stopped and entered the vehicle. Everyone was telling me to say Iâ€™m a Muslim, otherwise I will be killed. We entered a Boko Haram camp in the Sambisa forest, I stayed there for three days and each night we would sleep under big trees. I saw young boys in the camp carrying guns, some even as young as 10 years. I ddinâ€™t eat any food for three days, I was thinking it could be human flesh, because there are rumours that Boko Haram eat human flesh, so I would throw the food on the ground each day and pretend I ate. Eventually some insurgents asked which village I was from, and realised they knew my fathers brother. So they decided to let me go, and dropped me off at a main road, they made me wear hijab and gave me 2000 naira. My family are now taking refuge in Cameroon, but I am not staying with them. I burnt my hijab after I escaped, I have dreams of Shekau in the night, coming to
Hauwa Me and my friend were tied up in my mothers friends house, where she would try and force us to convert, and beat us when we refuse. One day when the lady was out, my friend sneaked into the other room and got the key for the front door. When the lady came back she broke free, and hit the woman on the head with a brick. The lady feel down, we quickly ran out of the house, and locked her inside the house with the key.
MarkusEverywhere we were surrounded by Boko Haram camps on every side. During the first night of our escape their were two large snakes that were two metres from us. We prayed that night the snakes would not disturb us and they just stayed where we were. We would stay under the thick canopy of the trees to hide from military helicopters seeing the camp. Me and the pastor spent all of our days praying and planning for an escape.
Markus28 yearsI was involved in a bad road accident in 2012, my leg was severely injured and doctors wanted to amputate it. I spent the next 18 months in and out of hospitals across the country trying to find a surgeon that could properly fix my leg. In January 2014 I was on my way to the hospital again after Christmas celebrations. While travelling Boko Haram had blocked the road, they stopped the car. I was abducted that day along with an old pastor from the south. The Boko Haram members knew we were Christians, they decided to keep us in the camp to bring us out of the darkness, and teach us the Koran. A few boko Haram members that could speak English would teach us scriptures every day. We wanted to escape, but the pastor was elderly and I could not run because I am permanently on crutches. Sometimes new captives would be brought to the camp, and killed right in front of us. Every month they would discuss whether they would release us, but the never did. The pastor and I would fast 3-5 days sometimes. Th