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We have helicopters now that can fire four thousand rounds per minute. A truly devastating piece of military hardware. A game changer.
-Nigerian government statement
in response to Boko Haram
‘Here’s linen to clothe your wounds.’
Euripides, The Trojan Women
- ‘I was a girl once…’
- ‘It was a big, muddy yard…’
- ‘It was like the corralling of cattle…’
- The woman led me across…’
- ‘And the leaves of the trees are…’
- ‘I was crossing the yard …’
- ‘Buki, short for Bukola…’
- ‘Barbed wire above us…’
- ‘The rain was torrential…’
- ‘The camp was almost deserted…’
- ‘A wife of the emir…’
- ‘The pains started in…’
- ‘A whine, a whistle…’
- ‘After the trudge…’
- ‘Buki and I stood…’
- ‘Butterflies scudding about…’
- ‘The place was deathly silent…’
- ‘The city is teeming with…’
- ‘If you smiled, you would be far prettier…’
- ‘At first sight of each other…’
- ‘It was a feverish day…’
- ‘I think it strange when…’
- ‘My last sight of the…’
- ‘The welcome home party…’
- ‘Uncle and Mama…’
- ‘Mama is pulling me out of bed…’
- ‘First it was her shadow…’
- ‘Mama lay on the bed…’
- ‘The woman came in the dead of night…’
- ‘Mama marched in…’
- ‘There was no track…’
- ‘As the double doors of the convent…’
- ‘There were no gates…’
- ‘Once a month Babby and I…’
I WAS A GIRL ONCE, but not any more. I smell. Blood dried and crusted all over me, and my wrapper in shreds. My insides, a morass. Hurtled through this forest that I saw, that first awful night, when I and my friends were snatched from the school.
The sudden pah-pah of gunshot in our dormitory and men, their faces covered, eyes glaring, saying they are the military come to protect us, as there is an insurrection in the town. We are afraid, but we believe them. Girls staggered out of bed and others came in from the veranda, where they had been sleeping because it was a warm, clammy night.
The moment we heard Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, we knew. They had stolen our soldiers’ uniforms to get past security. They pelted questions at us – Where is the boys’ school, Where is the cement kept, Where are the storage rooms. When we told them we did not know, they went crazy. Then, some others ran in to say they could not find any spare parts or petrol in the sheds, which led to argument.
They could not go back empty-handed or their commander would be furious. Then, amid the clamour, one of them with a grin said, ‘Girls will do,’ and so we heard an order for more trucks to be despatched. One girl took out her cell phone to call her mother, but it was instantly snapped from her. She began to cry, others began to cry, pleading to be let home. One went on her knees saying ‘Mister, Mister,’ which enraged him, so that he began cursing and taunting us, calling us names, saying we were sluts, prostitutes, that we should be married and soon we would.