They’ll never forget who her father is

The NY Times reports on much sadder outcomes for other victims of Boko Haram.

Zara and her little brother thought they were finally safe.

After being held captive by Boko Haram for months, they made it to this government camp for thousands of civilians who have fled the militants’ cruelty. But instead of a welcome, residents gathered around, badgering them with questions and glares.

They beat her 10-year-old brother, convinced that anyone who has spent time among the militants, even a young kidnapping victim, could have become a sympathizer, possibly even a suicide bomber.

She had a baby with her, via a Boko Haram fighter who raped her.

Zara knew the crowd would still doubt her loyalties. So she quickly spun a tale that the militants had killed her husband, leaving her a young, widowed mother.

“If they knew my baby was from an insurgent, they wouldn’t allow us to stay,” said Zara, whose full name was not used, to protect her safety. “They’ll never forget who her father is, just like a leopard never forgets its spots.”

Now, a deep suspicion is raging against anyone who has lived alongside the group — even girls who were held hostage, repeatedly raped and left to raise infants fathered by their tormentors.

Much of the anger stems from fear. Boko Haram has used dozens of women and girls — many not even in their teens — as suicide bombers in recent months, killing hundreds of people in attacks on places like markets and schools. Girls have even been sent to blow themselves up in a camp like this one.

So the women and girls just can’t catch a break.

Typically, when Boko Haram fighters overtake a village, they kill many of the young men and boys who refuse to join their ranks. Women are often forced to cook for the fighters or are even trained to become suicide bombers.

Some women and girls, like Zara, are forced into what the group calls “marriages.” As in many conflicts in which rape becomes a weapon of war, the hostages sometimes bear the children of the fighters.

These victims now face intense stigma, and in some cases brutal beatings, when they return to their communities, according to humanitarian groups. A recent Unicef report documented the distrust, quoting a community leader who called the babies fathered by fighters “hyenas among dogs.”

They lose, and lose again.

H/t Kausik

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