The Fate of Women Who Lived with Boko Haram

Why would a woman want to live with Boko Haram, Nigeria’s Islamist rebel group? Or more surprisingly, why would a woman who formerly lived with Boko Haram want to go back?

International Crisis Group’s documentary “Returning from the Land of Jihad” helps answer these questions through on-the-ground interviews with women who, voluntarily or involuntarily, have been associated with Boko Haram. The independent conflict prevention organisation’s researchers sought to find out more: What happens when such women move to government held areas? What kind of society do they find? And, how does this society perceive these women?

For ten years, clashes between Boko Haram and the Nigerian military have killed several thousand people and displaced more than two million in Nigeria. An advance by the Nigerian army prompted many women living with Boko Haram to abandon the group. Others were captured or rescued by soldiers and sent to internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, where they are exposed to acute marginalisation and abuse. Crisis Group's team found that while prejudice against women has waned in the last few years, many remain ostracised and exposed to sexual abuse and economic hardship. This hostile environment is pushing a significant number to return to the insurgency.

The experiences of Boko Haram women carry wide implications for our understanding of why people join such movements. The group, like many others that self-identify as “jihadist”, deploys ideological rhetoric to promote its political goals. But it is the deprived and fractious context in which it operates that best explains its appeal – especially to women.

This documentary gathers some of these women’s testimonies, together with Crisis Group's insights on the matter, and sheds new light on the realities they face on their challenging journey back into society.

  • International Crisis Group
  • Jorge Gutierrez Lucena
  • Jorge Gutierrez Lucena
  • Ned Dalby
  • Jorge Gutierrez Lucena
  • Azadeh Moaveni
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Genres:
    Gender, conflict, documentary, humanitarian
  • Runtime:
    25 minutes 25 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    June 21, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    20,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
    Belgium, Nigeria
  • Language:
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  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director - Jorge Gutierrez Lucena