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Nigeria: between stigmatization and rejection, the difficult daily life of ex-hostages rescued from Boko Haram

Lydia Simon, victim of the mass kidnapping perpetrated by the jihadist terrorist group Boko Haram from the Chibok boarding school in Nigeria in 2014, was found on April 18 in the community of Ngoshe, 150 kilometers from Chibok, according to information from the Nigerian army relayed by the Guardian.

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Nigeria: between stigmatization and rejection, the difficult daily life of ex-hostages rescued from Boko Haram

Lydia Simon, victim of the mass kidnapping perpetrated by the jihadist terrorist group Boko Haram from the Chibok boarding school in Nigeria in 2014, was found on April 18 in the community of Ngoshe, 150 kilometers from Chibok, according to information from the Nigerian army relayed by the Guardian. Five months pregnant at the time of her rescue, her three children born in captivity were also rescued. Ten years after the kidnapping of 276 young Nigerian high school girls, the releases of victims continue. But too often, the return of ex-hostages is accompanied by rejection from their community.

In 2014, the affair had a worldwide impact. The young girls kidnapped, supported by the campaign and the hashtag

Lydia Simon and her children are not the only ones to have recently been rescued. In May 2023, Hauwa Maltha and Esther Marcus were rescued by the Nigerian army. Hauwa was then pregnant, the mother of a three-year-old child and was forcibly married to three different jihadists. Esther, for her part, has been married twice.

A few years earlier, in 2017, 103 young girls were released by Boko Haram against jihadist prisoners, after negotiations with the Nigerian government. But far from putting an end to their suffering, this return among their own is for many of them a source of stigmatization and rejection. In an investigation published by the Guardian, Yama, one of the survivors, said she was warmly welcomed by her family but faced significant rumors within her community, according to which the young women had been raped and their children abandoned in the forest.

Subsequently enrolled in a university in another state thanks to a scholarship from the Nigerian government, Yama was this time subjected to the gaze of other students: “At school, you have to hide what happened to you, otherwise people will will stay away from you, thinking you have this killer mentality,” she tells the Guardian. A painful and incomprehensible double punishment for the young student: “It was not me who took myself [in captivity],” she asserts. “I was forced, so why do they see me as Boko Haram?” For Amina Ali Nkeki, victim of the same kidnapping and married to a member of Boko Haram, it is her eight-year-old daughter, born in captivity and now free, who bears the brunt of this stigmatization at school.

Faced with the despair of families still awaiting the return of their daughters ten years later, the Nigerian government and the international community are accused of being disinterested in the fate of the victims. Since the kidnapping in 2014, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and China have provided military and intelligence support to Nigeria. But research only began a month after the attack and external aid was rejected with suspicion by the government. According to Matthew Page, an analyst at the British foreign affairs think tank Chatham House, who worked for U.S. intelligence at the time, Nigeria was then "very skeptical about why the United States [and] the The British would like to help them militarily. » After the release of the 103 girls in 2017, the government reportedly made little effort to continue negotiations. And today, the fight seems to have been forgotten by the public figures who defended it.

In addition to the incapacity or lack of will of Nigerian leaders to find the missing, it is also the increase in mass kidnappings in the country which is denounced. Far from being isolated, the attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram have on the contrary followed one another. Since the Chibok attack, more than 2,190 students have been kidnapped, according to the geopolitical risk consultancy SBM Intelligence, which describes these mass kidnappings as “an increasingly favorite sport for the teeming armed groups of the Nigeria". Adults have also been victims of kidnapping, although schools are a favored target of the group, which notably fights Western education and influence. Ten years later, and despite the wait, the rescue of Lydia Simon represents a symbol and hope for the families, while 82 young women are still missing.

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