In a classic case reminiscent of the Stockholm Syndrome, the escaped Chibok girl Amina Ali Nkeki has said she misses her Boko Haram fighter husband and still thinks about him three months after escaping the terrorists’ camp.
Amina Ali, who was held hostage by the terrorist group for more than two years, has also disclosed that she was married off a year into her ordeal and later had a baby girl, Safiya.
The couple and their daughter were found on the outskirts of Nigeria’s Sambisa Forest in May. She said they fled the camp by themselves and were not rescued by the Nigerian military, contrary to initial reports.
Her husband, identified as Mohammed Hayatu at the time of their escape, told a witness that he too had been kidnapped by Boko Haram.
He was placed in military detention for interrogation by Nigeria’s joint intelligence centre.
Amina Ali added that she had no idea where he is now but was keen to be reunited with him.
“I’m not comfortable with the way I’m being kept from him,” the painfully shy 21-year-old told CNN in her first worldwide interview, at an undisclosed location in Abuja on Tuesday.
Addressing the father of her child directly, she said: “I want you to know that I’m still thinking about you, and just because we are separated doesn’t mean I have forgotten about you.”
Her statements came two days after the terrorist group released a grisly video showing the dead bodies of young women, taken in the aftermath of what Boko Haram claimed was a Nigerian airstrike.
Amina Ali said a dozen captives were killed in a bombing more than a year ago, suggesting that the footage was not new, according to a spokesman for the National Security Adviser (NSA).
The video also showed a Chibok girl reciting a scripted plea for the release of Boko Haram fighters in exchange for the kidnapped girls.
Amina Ali was one of 276 schoolgirls abducted at gunpoint from their boarding school in Chibok on April 14, 2014 by Boko Haram terrorists. As many as 57 girls were able to escape almost immediately, but 219 remained missing until Amina Ali’s escape.
The kidnapping sparked global outrage and prompted global figures, including activist Malala Yousafzai and US first lady Michelle Obama, to support the campaign to #BringBackOurGirls.
Amina Ali refuses to talk about the attack, saying she alone cannot remember what happened that fateful day.
For a year after they were taken, the abducted girls were kept together, she said. Then some of the teenagers — including her — were “given” to the terrorists as wives.
She said she was desperate to see her mother again and that the thought gave her the courage and strength to flee the camp.
Asked how she felt about becoming a mother herself while in captivity, her face clouds over and, speaking through an interpreter, she insisted: “I don’t want to answer.”
Her mother has spent the past two months staying with her in Abuja. But Amina Ali has still not been back to Chibok and added that she wanted to go home and return to school.
“I’m not scared of Boko Haram. They are not my God,” she said.
The whereabouts of the rest of the girls remain a mystery, though they are believed to be somewhere in the Sambisa Forest, Boko Haram’s stronghold in the North-east.
The federal government has said via Facebook that it is in touch with Boko Haram and working to secure the girls’ release.
Over the past two years, successive Nigerian governments have been criticised for failing to rescue the young hostages.
“This is a government which is not only in denial mentally, but in denial about certain obvious steps to take,” Nigerian author Wole Soyinka, a Nobel laureate, said of the Goodluck Jonathan administration when the girls were first kidnapped.
“It’s one of those rather child-like situations that if you shut your eyes, if you don’t exhibit the tactile evidence of the missing humanity here, that somehow the problem will go away,’ he said.
Amina Ali remains the only long-held hostage who has escaped.
But she has a defiant message for her “sisters” still being held: “Don’t lose hope.” She managed to get away, she said, and one day they will be able to return to their families too.
“Be patient and prayerful,” she said. “The way God rescued me from Sambisa Forest, he will rescue you too.”