In a disturbing look at the abuses endured by 219 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Islamist insurgents, a report issued Monday describes victims being forced to convert to Islam and marry their captors, being raped and made to cook, clean, carry ammunition and looted goods.
The report by Human Rights Watch found the 219 girls seized in the town of Chibok in a mass kidnapping in April were among at least 500 girls and women, mainly Christians, who had been abducted since the beginning of last year by the Islamist militia in Nigeria known as Boko Haram.
According to the rights organization, more than 7,000 civilians have been killed in the Islamist insurgency in northern Nigeria since 2009. More than half of the killings have occurred since early 2013.
The kidnapping of the Chibok girls sparked a Twitter hashtag, “Bring Back Our Girls,” and a global campaign to pressure Nigeria’s government to do more to get the girls released.
Nigeria’s defense chiefs insisted they knew the girls’ whereabouts but ruled out a military attack to free them because of the likelihood of casualties. In recent weeks, Nigerian officials have been negotiating in Chad with representatives of Boko Haram, who they claim have offered to release the Chibok girls. Nigeria is reportedly considering releasing members of the militant group in return.