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Boko Haram Negotiator Explains How Some Chibok Girls Refused Freedom

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Some of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls have reportedly refused to be freed as they would rather stick to their Boko Haram captors.

Boko Haram captors

The militants on Saturday released 82 schoolgirls out of the more than 200 they kidnapped in April 2014 from northeast Nigeria in exchange for prisoners.

Yet mediator and lawyer, Zannah Mustapha, said some of the abducted girls refused to go home, fuelling fears that they have been radicalised by the jihadists, and may feel afraid, ashamed or even too powerful to return to their old lives.

“Some girls refused to return … I have never talked to one of the girls about their reasons,” said 57-year-old Mr. Mustapha, who acted as an intermediary in the latest negotiations between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram.

“As a mediator, it is not part of my mandate to force them (to return home),” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in the capital Abuja.

The return of the 82 girls on Saturday marked the second group release of the Chibok girls by Boko Haram – with both deals brokered by Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross – after 21 young women were released in October.

Yet many women and girls abducted by Boko Haram identify with their captors, may not want to give up their new lives with their militant husbands, or feel forced to stay due to fear or shame, according to Nigerian psychologist Fatima Akilu.

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“They develop Stockholm syndrome, identify with captors and want to remain,” said Ms. Akilu, who has run deradicalisation programmes for Boko Haram militants and women abducted by them.

“Some are afraid of what to expect, the unknown. We don’t know how much influence their husbands have in coercing them not to go back,” added Ms. Akilu, head of the Neem Foundation, a non-profit group aimed at countering extremism in Nigeria.

Olumide Anifowose

A graduate of Anthropology, University of Cape Coast.

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