The Women Rescued from Boko Haram Who Are Returning to Their Captors

Around 6:30 p.m. on an evening in April, 2013, Aisha Yerima was at her home in Banki, a town in northeast Nigeria. Aisha was twenty-one, slim and dark-skinned, her face wrapped in a hijab. She had been raised in Maiduguri, the nearby capital of Borno state, and, unlike many girls in the region, she had attended the Government Girls Secondary School. “I am educated,” she boasted to me, recently. When she graduated, at fifteen, her family married her off to a man named Mustapha. But after seven years the couple divorced, and Mustapha took custody of their three-year-old son. Aisha was preparing to move back in with her parents, and she was chatting with her former in-laws about the move when she heard gunshots. She looked out the window and saw militants from the jihadist group Boko Haram advancing on a unit of Nigerian soldiers, who were stationed in town and appeared to be outnumbered. As the militants fired on the buildings, residents scrambled for safety. In the chaos, Aisha ran in a different direction from her ex-husband and child. She made her way to a grove of trees and hid for what seemed like hours, panting and praying. That evening, the militants found her and loaded her onto a truck bed, along with dozens of women and children. “I was among those captured and taken away into the forest,” she said.

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