Remember Our Sisters Everywhere is a social network
A handout photo released by UNICEF shows a 15-year-old Nigerian refugee at the Minawao refugee camp in Northern Cameroon, on April 5, 2016. Fati was abducted by Boko Haram and given to a man and forced to be his wife during her four months in captivity. She was eventually freed by Cameroonian soldiers and reunited with her family in a refugee camp in Cameroon. (KAREL PRINSLOO/AFP/Getty Images)
Boko Haram’s use of child suicide bombers soaring, UN says
by GEOFFREY YORK, JOHANNESBURG — Globe and Mail, Apr. 12, 2016
In a drastic escalation of one of its most shocking tactics, Boko Haram is forcing children as young as 8, mostly girls, to become suicide bombers for its radical cause.
A new report by a United Nations agency has found that the number of children involved in “suicide” attacks – often mobilized through deception or force – has soared more than tenfold since 2014 in northern Nigeria and the neighbouring countries Cameroon, Chad and Niger. The radical Islamist group has intensified its use of suicide bombings as it loses territory to advancing Nigerian soldiers.
The number of children involved in these bombings rose to 44 last year, compared with just four in the previous year, according to the report by the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). More than three-quarters are girls.
“These children are victims, not perpetrators,” UNICEF regional director Manuel Fontaine said in a statement Tuesday. “Deceiving children and forcing them to carry out deadly acts has been one of the most horrific aspects of the violence in Nigeria and in neighbouring countries.”
As Nigeria prepares to mark the second anniversary on Thursday of the extremist militia’s kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from the northern town of Chibok, new evidence is emerging of the extent of the group’s brutal attacks on schools, teachers and children.
A report released by Human Rights Watch this week found that in the past seven years Boko Haram had destroyed more than 910 schools, forced the closure of another 1,500, killed at least 611 teachers and forced a further 19,000 to flee. It has also abducted more than 2,000 civilians, including the Chibok students.
Last year alone, Boko Haram organized more than 150 suicide bombings, up sharply from 32 in the previous year, and used children in almost a fifth of those bombings, UNICEF says, “yet their stories are barely told.” In total, more than 1.3 million children have lost their homes because of the Boko Haram insurgency.
Almost a million children have little or no access to school – partly because Nigerian soldiers have often used schools as military bases, according to Human Rights Watch. Boko Haram’s name can be roughly translated as “Western education is forbidden.” It has targeted Nigeria’s schools in its deadly campaign to impose its extremist version of Islamic law.
The world has “barely noticed” the destruction of education and the homelessness of more than a million children in the Boko Haram conflict, UNICEF says.
“The calculated use of children who may have been coerced into carrying bombs has created an atmosphere of fear and suspicion that has devastating consequences for girls who have survived captivity,” it adds.
“Boys are forced to attack their own families to demonstrate their loyalty to Boko Haram, while girls are exposed to severe abuse, including sexual violence and forced marriage to fighters. Some are also used to carry or detonate bombs.
The use of children, especially girls, as suicide bombers has become one of the defining and alarming features of the conflict.” Even after their escape or release, children are often still feared as potential attackers.
“Some communities are starting to see children as threats to their safety,” Mr. Fontaine said. “This suspicion towards children can have destructive consequences.
How can a community rebuild itself when it is casting out its own sisters, daughters and mothers?” In many parts of northeastern Nigeria, most schools have been closed for years.
An entire generation of children is being “robbed” of its education, Human Rights Watch says. “The lives of these children could become locked in unending cycles of underachievement and poverty.”
ROSE is dedicated to the prevention of violence against women and the remembrance and honouring of women and girls who have been murdered or are missing.
Follow on Facebook @ Rememberoursisterseverywhere
Follow on Twitter @ ROSE_Resists
Sign Up to join ROSE (upper right)
Contact us: email@example.com
By remembering our sisters everywhere we work together to prevent violence.