Investigations into a mass abortion program conducted by the Nigerian military have revealed startling facts about the extent of the program and the targeting of women and girls who have been kidnapped and raped by Boko Haram militants., Reuters reported.
The report alleges that the Nigerian military has been secretly carrying out a program that has resulted in the termination of at least 10,000 pregnancies. Amnesty International has warned that the military’s actions “may amount to crimes against humanity.”
The Nigerian government has denied these allegations, but the United Nations has called for an independent investigation. The military has also been accused of using excessive force in its response to the Boko Haram insurgency, which has resulted in the death of thousands of civilians.
Fati’s story is just one of many heart-wrenching tales to come out of the war-torn region of Borno state in Nigeria. For years, the area has been plagued by fighting between government forces and Islamist insurgents. Thousands have been killed and many more have been forced to flee their homes.
Women and girls have been particularly vulnerable in this conflict. Many have been abducted and forced into marriage with insurgents. They have been beaten, raped, and subjected to other forms of sexual violence. Some have managed to escape and find their way to safety. Others have not been so lucky.
Fati said that she and five other women were lying on mats in a narrow room at a military barracks in Maiduguri when she started to feel pain in her stomach. She said that the room was dim and filled with cockroaches, and that uniformed men were coming in and out, giving the women mysterious injections and pills. After a few hours, Fati said, she began to bleed from her stomach, and she realised that the other women were bleeding as well. She said that she thought the soldiers were trying to kill them.
Fati, who was four months pregnant when she was liberated from the insurgents, soon realised that the soldiers had aborted her pregnancy without even telling her. She was warned that if she shared this information with anyone, she would be severely beaten.
When the women found blood in their toilet, they were warned: “If you share this story with anyone, you will be seriously beaten.”
At least 10,000 abortions have been secretly taking place in the country’s northeast since at least 2013, according to dozens of witness accounts and numbers found in documentation. The majority of these abortions were performed on women and girls who had been kidnapped and raped by Islamist militants in the region.
The abortions were carried out mostly without the person’s consent – and often without their prior knowledge, according to the witness accounts. The women and girls ranged from a few weeks to eight months pregnant, and some were as young as 12 years old, interviews and records showed. These abortions were often done without medical supervision, and in some cases, the women and girls were forced to undergo the procedure. Some of the women and girls died as a result of the procedure, and others were left with serious physical and psychological injuries.
This investigation is based on interviews with 33 women and girls who say they underwent abortions while in the custody of the Nigerian Army. Just one said she freely gave consent. Reporters also interviewed five civilian healthcare workers and nine security personnel involved in the programme, including soldiers and other government employees such as armed guards engaged in escorting pregnant women to abortion sites. In addition, Reuters reviewed copies of military documents and civilian hospital records describing or tallying thousands of abortion procedures.
The women interviewed said they had been raped by soldiers while in custody, and that they had been taken to military-run facilities where they were forced to undergo abortions. Some said they had been drugged, and that they had awoken to find that their babies had been killed
Portraits of some of the sources for this investigation. Some faces have been digitally masked to safeguard source identities. Reporters interviewed 33 women and girls who say they underwent abortions while held by the Nigerian Army. Five civilian healthcare workers were interviewed and nine security personnel involved in the secret abortion programme, including soldiers and other government employees.
The army in an unnamed country has been running a secret abortion program, deceiving women into thinking they were being given health treatments when they were actually being drugged and forced to have abortions. Some women who resisted were beaten, caned, held at gunpoint, or drugged into compliance. Others were tied or pinned down while the abortion drugs were inserted into their bodies.
The Nigerian military has been accused of running an abortion program that has resulted in the deaths of several women. The military denies the existence of such a program and says that the Reuters report is part of a foreign effort to undermine the country’s fight against insurgents.
This story was originally published by Reuters and Edited by Ericson Mangoli