Returning from the Land of Jihad: The Fate of Women Associated with Boko Haram

This report focuses exclusively on women associated with Boko Haram who have returned, voluntarily or through military operations, to civilian areas and camps for the internally displaced in Maiduguri state, as well as other local government areas. Because the full and most precise descriptive term for such women – “women associated with Boko Haram” – is cumbersome in such a long report, we have used “returnees” as shorthand. As we hope the report shows, the complexity of this group defies neat description. Some of the women associated with Boko Haram have suffered abuse, and are survivor returnees; some have rejected the group, and are genuinely “formerly associated”; others remained devoted, even if physically delinked from the group, so they are “associates” and “returnees”, at the same time. We are aware that the term “returnee” normally connotes conventional civilian IDPs, rather than those returning from armed groups. But for the purposes of this report, which also highlights the pervasiveness of stigma, it carries a less pejorative tone than “Boko Haram women”, a phrase that also elides the distinctions among the women themselves. Hence we use the term “returnee” throughout, with all the above caveats.