ICC Note: Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram is known for kidnaping, raping, and forcing girls into marriages with their fighters, the most well-known instance being the kidnap of the 276 Chibok girls in 2014. Aisha Bulama is another Nigerian girl that has fallen victim to Boko Haram. She was kidnapped and held until her father agreed to let her marry one of the fighters upon threat of death. She was then forced into an abusive marriage and had to live in the Sambisa forest, where Boko Haram is encamped in northeast Nigeria. Eventually, her husband divorced her and she escaped with her infant child and returned home. However, Aisha, like many other girls before her, faced discrimination and rejection at home where she was ostracized by the community, even her parents, because of her unwilling association with the terrorist group. This is a common occurrence because the communities fear the women have been indoctrinated or are working secretly for the terrorist group, or that their children will take up similar paths to their fathers. UNICEF has realized the persecution that these women who were victims of Boko Haram are facing and is advocating for increased support and help for them to integrate back into society, given emotional and physical support to help them recover from the trauma of sexual abuse at the hands of Boko Haram and rejection from their communities. Boko Haram remains an active group in Nigeria, focused on the northeastern region of the country, raping, kidnapping, and killing many people, targeting Christians in their violence.
06/22/2016, Nigera (AllAfrica) – Aisha Bulama, forcefully married to a member of the dreaded Boko Haram sect, was later divorced and rejected by the society. Michael Olugbode writes that she and other women with similar ordeals could have remained as outcasts but for the psychosocial support provided by UNICEF
Aisha Bulama was a pretty girl from birth, she was a delight of everyone in her area in Bama and before she attained 15 years, suitors had started coming for her hand in marriage. Her father sensing that something urgently needed to be done before the situation became embarrassing, accepted the proposal of one of her numerous suitors and a day was planned for the engagement.
As the plan was on, little did they know that there was another plan being orchestrated by Bamai Bamassa, a son to the friend of Aisha’s father. He had shown interest in Aisha since they were children, but being the shy type, he was unable to indicate his interest in her to her on time. When he found out that Aisha was betrothed to someone else he used his association with the terrorist sect, Boko Haram to abduct her.
Bamassa’s proposal to get married to Aisha to her parents after the abduction, was rejected by Aisha and her parents who did not only felt shortchanged and dishonored but felt that they would be breaking a commitment which they had freely entered into with Aminu Musa and his family to marry Aisha to them.
But after several threat to their lives, Aisha and her parents resolve were broken and they had to accept the proposal of Bamassa who paid the sum of N10,000 as dowry and the right to have Aisha as wife. One would have thought the story was ended and Aisha would have to live a happy life thereafter, but it was the beginning of a seeming unending sad story as she was reportedly being frequently battered by a husband who had taken to violence as a means to get everything done, just a little over a year into the marriage. So a month after the birth of their daughter, Amina, the marriage had completely broken down and the couple had to go their different ways.
But this is not the end of the tale for Aisha who had to face rejection from her family and the rest of the society until officials of United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) came to her rescue.
With tears in her eyes Aisha recounted her story: “I am Aisha Bulama, I am 16 years old and had a terrible experience which all started with my forceful abduction by members of the Boko Haram group. During their first major attack on Bama, they came to our house and I was one of those that were abducted by the insurgents. But this was not without resistance from my father. They took us to Bama Prison.