Es are stories from hell experienced by women in Nigeria. One of the fates: Fati, a 20-year-old Nigerian from the north-east of the country was held captive by Islamist insurgents. She and many other women had been raping and beating Islamists for a year and a half. Then soldiers from the Nigerian military surrounded Fati’s village, which is on Lake Chad island. Shells exploded, there was a shootout, Fati passed out.
Later, she told Reuters news agency, she woke up in a nearby military camp. “I felt happier than I have ever felt in my life.” But instead of being rescued, she experienced the next torment just a week later. In a gloomy room in a military barracks in Maiduguri, soldiers gave her and five other women mysterious injections and pills. It was stuffy, cockroaches scurrying across the floor, she recalled. After four hours, the women were writhing, they were bleeding, and they felt stabbing pains in their stomachs. The soldiers had aborted the unborn child. Fati was four months pregnant.
The soldiers, to whom she was previously grateful for her rescue, did not inform the women about the medical procedure. For this, they threatened them, “If you tell anyone about this, you will be severely beaten.” They were also threatened with a beating after washing off the blood in a toilet.
Now Fati and dozens of other women Reuters spoke to have broken their silence. They reveal the methods used by the Nigerian army in the north-east of the country, which has been running a “secret, systematic and illegal abortion program” that has resulted in at least 10,000 terminations of pregnancies in women and girls. Many of these pregnant women were previously kidnapped and raped by militant Islamists. This emerges from the interviews conducted by Reuters and from other documents evaluated by the news agency. “The women and girls were between a few weeks and eight months pregnant, and some were as young as 12,” writes Reuters. Only one woman is said to have consented to the abortion. Reuters spoke to 33 women, as well as health workers and security forces who have accompanied pregnant women to abortion sites. Hospital records indicate that there must have been thousands of abortions.
Military leadership doubts the report – foreign countries involved
The women were told by the soldiers that the pills and injections would bring them back to strength. A few women are known to have resisted and the military beat them with a stick, threatened them with a gun, or were drugged into submission. Others were said to have been tied up, a security guard and a health worker said.
“If they had let me have the baby, I would have wanted it,” says Bintu Ibrahim, whose account was corroborated by another former detainee, Yagana Bukar. The woman is in her late twenties. When she felt the pain in her stomach, she knew what was being done to her. Other women are said not to have survived the consequences of the abortions.
The Nigerian military leadership denied the existence of such a program to Reuters news agency. It is unclear who developed it and who knew about it on the military staff. Military leaders in the capital, Abuja, instead said that Reuters’ coverage was “part of a foreign attempt.” [sei]to undermine the country’s fight against the insurgents”. “Everyone respects life. We respect families. We respect women and children. We respect every living soul,” said Maj. Gen. Christopher Musa, who leads the military’s counterinsurgency campaign in the Northeast.
Northeast Nigeria has been hotly contested for more than a decade. Islamists are using violence in the West African region, and at least 300,000 people are said to have died as a result of the conflict. The abortion program was probably based on the superstition that the children of insurgents could one day use their blood against the Nigerian government because of their blood.