Behind the Numbers: Understanding Boko Haram’s Reign of Terror in Nigeria

A student stands in a burnt classroom burnt by the Islamist group Boko Haram to keep children away from school in Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria, May 12, 2012. (PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/GettyImages)

A student stands in a burnt classroom burnt by the Islamist group Boko Haram to keep children away from school in Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria, May 12, 2012. (PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/GettyImages)

By Adotei Akwei and Caroline Courtney

“They used to train girls how to shoot guns. I was among the girls trained to shoot. I was also trained how to use bombs and how to attack a village. They’ll dress us and demonstrate to us how to explode a bomb. This training went on for 3 weeks after we arrived. Then they started sending some of us to operations. I went on one operation to my own village.” –Aisha (age 19)

Imagine waking up one morning, preparing for a friend’s wedding just before you are kidnapped, forced into “marriage” with one of your abductors and held captive in a remote camp hundreds of miles from home.

In these camps you witness brutal executions, are required to convert to an unfamiliar religion, and threatened into killing on behalf of an atrocious armed militant group. Sexual violence is an everyday occurrence.

2,000.

What might sound like a fictitious Hollywood plot to some is all too real for others. This is the story of Aisha, whose real name will be withheld for security reasons. Aisha is one of the estimated 2000 girls who have been abducted by Boko Haram and one of the few who have escaped.

276.

One year ago, the world was left in shock after the abduction of 276 girls from to town of Chibok, Nigeria. Unfortunately, the horror of these abductions is just one aspect of an insurgency that has been devastating Nigerian communities long before the story of the 276 Chibok girls became international news last year and continuing after the abductions occurred.

5,500.

Boko Haram militarized in 2009 and has been gradually claiming territory in the northeastern regions of Nigeria. Starting in 2014 and into 2015, the scale and quantity of the group’s attacks skyrocketed, resulting in the deaths of at least an estimated 5,500 civilians. Amnesty has documented several of these attacks, including the raid of Baga town on January 3rd,2015 when 2,000 people were killed and the attack on Bama in March where an estimated 5900 people were killed.

In March the Nigerian people made history by sweeping out incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan and electing former head of State Muhammadu Buhari, who vowed to crush Boko Haram. The Jonathan administration was widely criticized for its failure to stop the insurgency and restore peace and security to the northeast states most impacted by the conflict.

It is critical that the international community press President-Elect Buhari to follow up on his campaign promises to not only free the Chibok girls, but to restore the rule of law and protection of human rights in the north as well as throughout the country. The violence of Boko Haram is just one challenge that must be addressed by the new leadership in Abuja and these challenges will not be solved by military means.

Aisha deserves to live in a country where she can go to school without fear, where one’s religion does not mean a death sentence and where her government is willing to invest in the safety of its people.

365.

We cannot wait another year to free the Chibok Girls and end violence against women and girls in Nigeria.

For more information, read the Amnesty International report “Our jobs were to shoot slaughter and kill” on Boko Haram’s reign of terror in northeastern Nigeria.

1,000 Days in Prison: How Mohammed Al-Roken Is Sacrificing His Freedom for Human Rights in the UAE

Dr Mohammed al-Roken

By Mansoureh Mills, Amnesty International campaigns on UAE, Iran and Kuwait

Sunday 12 April 2015 marks 1,000 days since Dr Mohammed al-Roken was locked up in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), following a massive crackdown on political and human rights activists. Across the world, Amnesty campaigners are doing all they can to fight for his release.

“You taught me the importance of trying to change things that look unjust,” Christian, Canada.

For the past two weeks, I’ve read and counted around 4,000 beautiful cards and letters for human rights lawyer and law professor Dr Mohammed al-Roken. He was sentenced to 10 years’ prison in the UAE after a deeply unfair mass trial of 94 government critics and activists, and has spent much of the last 1,000 days in a high security prison in the Abu Dhabi desert. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

#FreeRaif: US should press for release of Saudi blogger

Ensaf Haidar, wife of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi

Ensaf Haidar, wife of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi

By Ensaf Haidar, via The Washington Post

On June 17, 2012, my husband, Raif Badawi, the father of my three children and my best friend, was arrested in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. For nearly three years, as he has languished in prison, my family has been trapped in a nightmare.

Raif is a man of principle and a respected activist in Saudi Arabia. In 2008, he started a blog where readers could openly discuss politics, religion and other social issues. But in Saudi Arabia, one can pay an unthinkable price simply for blogging. Raif was convicted of insulting Islam and violating the kingdom’s repressive information-technology laws. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

There were at least 607 executions in 2014. So what?

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By Chiara Sangiorgio, Death Penalty Researcher at Amnesty International

The numbers behind our latest overview of the global use of the death penalty, released today, tell a chilling story: 607 people were executed in 22 countries and at least 2,466 men and women were sentenced to death in 55 countries in 2014 alone.

But, alarming as they are, the figures paint a partial picture of the true extent to which people are hanged, shot or given the lethal injection across the world.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Journalist and Activist Disappeared in Zimbabwe

tai Dzamara (left) and fellow activists of the Occupy Africa Unity Square protest, have vowed to continue with their sit in until their demands are met by President Robert Mugabe. (Picture by Daily News)

tai Dzamara (left) and fellow activists of the Occupy Africa Unity Square protest, have vowed to continue with their sit in until their demands are met by President Robert Mugabe. (Picture by Daily News)

On the morning of March 9, in front of a Harare neighborhood barbershop, five men in civilian clothes abducted journalist and activist Itai Dzamara. He was handcuffed, bundled into a white truck with no visible license plates, and has not been seen since. He has disappeared, leaving a wife and two young children behind to grieve and demand he be brought home. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Where can Human Rights Defenders turn to in Honduras?

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White crosses in memory of those victims of violence are seen around Tegucigalpa after being placed by members of human rights organizations, on July 9, 2014. (ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)

Victims of abuses in Honduras rely upon the work of human rights defenders in their country for help. But what happens when the defenders themselves become the target of threats and violence?

Amnesty International’s recent report, Defending Human Rights in the Americas: Necessary, Legitimate and Dangerous, features several examples of abuses directed against human rights defenders in Honduras: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Honduran journalist told he would be found “in a ditch”

Honduran journalists take part in a vigil in memory of journalists killed in Honduras. (ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/GettyImages)

Honduran journalists take part in a vigil in memory of journalists killed in Honduras. (ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/GettyImages)

On January 24, a high-ranking military official told Honduran journalist César Omar Silva Rosales that he would be found “in a ditch, gagged and with yellow legs” if he continued to produce unfavorable coverage of the military. Even more shocking, the official made this threat directly to the journalist’s face as he was trying to cover a congressional session on military policy. Amnesty International has issued an urgent action in this case. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Free Speech Should Be Worth More Than Diamonds in Angola

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos shakes hands with US Secretary of State John Kerry on May 5, 2014. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos shakes hands with US Secretary of State John Kerry on May 5, 2014. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

How many attempts by your government to keep you quiet through harassment, arrests and trials would it take before you stopped trying to hold them to account? For Rafael Marques, nothing the Angolan government has thrown at him will keep him silent. Rafael goes on trial this month for writing a book accusing army generals in Angola of alleged human rights abuses. We are calling on the US State Department to raise our free speech concerns for Rafael and all citizens to the Angola government. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

9 Eye-Opening Facts about the State of Human Rights Worldwide

AIR15BLOG

In 2014, Amnesty International recorded and investigated human rights abuses in 160 countries and territories worldwide*.

While progress is being made in some areas, the frightening facts and figures below show that for many people the human rights situation is getting worse. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Azerbaijan: Brutal Crackdown Against Journalists Continues

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By Nic Carter, Amnesty International USA

Over the last year, Azerbaijan has imprisoned dozens of journalists, human rights advocates, bloggers, lawyers, and academics who have criticized the regime. Ilham Aliev’s repressive petro-state has brazenly stepped up its harassment of journalists amidst international criticism. In December, the Aliev regime struck a terrible blow against the freedom of the press by arresting the country’s best-known investigative journalist, Khadija Ismayilova, on fabricated charges. Her pre-trial detention, due to expire on February 5, has been extended for a further two months. Recently, new charges have been brought against her, including embezzlement, illegal entrepreneurship, abuse of power, and tax evasion. She faces 12 years in prison if convicted. Her case has rightfully received a lot of attention. Yet she is only one of an estimated 98 political prisoners in Azerbaijan, of which around a dozen are journalists. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST