LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
The Nigerian militant group Boko Haram came to the world's attention four years ago when fighters abducted 276 girls from a boarding school in the town of Chibok. Since then, the group has kidnapped thousands. One of those who was abducted was Patience Ibrahim. She was just 19 years old and already a widow. Her story is told in a new book, "A Gift From Darkness." It begins in Maiduguri in northern Nigeria, where German journalist Andrea Hoffmann first met Ibrahim. And a warning to listeners - the conversation you are about to hear contains gruesome details not suitable for younger listeners. Hoffmann began by describing the first camp Patience was taken to.
ANDREA HOFFMANN: These camps are really beyond what we can picture. The first camp she went to was not a set-up camp. It was out in an open space, more or less, a humid area with some trees, a lot of grass and a lot of mosquitoes. But there was no houses or anything.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So there's sexual slavery in these camps, forcible conversions. And actually, she details cannibalism. There's this macabre soup that is served every night in the first camp.
HOFFMANN: Yes. That really struck me. And she was very specific about that. What she says is that Boko Haram slaughters the men that they think have been unfaithful to the group. And then afterwards, she says, they are prepared. And they are served as food.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And throughout all this, Patience is pregnant with her husband's child, who is Christian, as she is. But she can't show it.
HOFFMANN: Yes. She and other women, as well, testified the same thing. They saw that when Boko Haram captures a Christian, and they know this woman is pregnant, what they do is they slit off the belly and take out the unborn child and kill the mother and the child. They just tear it out, saying that they do not want any Christian offspring. And since this woman was a Christian but - and furthermore, her husband was a Christian, which is more important to them, obviously - that the child would be Christian and has no right to live. So she saw that. And she knew what was going to happen if they knew that she was pregnant before she came to the camp.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'd like to know - these stories are obviously so difficult and painful. But how do you verify something like this? How do you, as a journalist, try and make sure that what she's saying happened? Because trauma can obviously manifest itself in all sorts of different ways.
HOFFMANN: Yeah. It was very hard to verify some of the things. For example, I tried to verify the location of the camp. And that was an easy thing to do because, you know, I could trace it with some villages. And they had a church register. And so other women said, oh, yes. That's true. You know, the camp was in that area.
And then I talked a lot to other women and asked them about what they witnessed and the practices. And many of them told these horrible things about pregnant women that were slit open. And they also told me that they have witnessed horrible rituals with blood, you know, cutting off heads, slitting open the throats and drinking the blood - things like that. What I could not have in another testimony was her claiming that they put the meat of other soldiers that they had killed inside the soup. So I wrote it like that in the book. You know, she was really insisting on this fact. But I know she is traumatized. So I just have to put it as her testimony, which I think is important to transport. But I cannot verify it 100 percent.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What were you hoping to draw attention to by writing this story? What are you hoping the world should know about what's happening in Nigeria?
HOFFMANN: What really struck me was the fact that this almost happened at the same time that ISIS took that big territory in Syria and Iraq. And the whole world was watching.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And when they had the kidnapping of the Yazidis, the Yazidi minority.
HOFFMANN: Yes. And everybody was focused on Iraq and Syria. And at the same time, more or less, the same thing happened in Africa. And it was just a footnote. OK. We noticed that the Chibok girls were kidnapped, but that was about it. We never gave it a great deal of attention. And it's just as important for these people that have to suffer it. And for me, the most important thing is really getting the testimony. If it's written down, it's written down, you know? It's fixed. It won't go away, you know?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: It can't be forgotten.
HOFFMANN: You know, it's part of bringing justice to these women.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: How is Patience doing now? When was the last time you spoke with her?
HOFFMANN: I sometimes speak to her on the phone whenever I can get in touch with someone that can find her and can translate and so on. And she's doing well. She was thinking about going to the south. But now she has decided to stay in Maiduguri because she has met another man. And she is actually engaged.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And she and her daughter, who was born at the end of the book - how old is she now?
HOFFMANN: Yeah. She's almost 2 years now. And she's doing very well. So Patience has really succeeded and done a great job with this little girl.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Andrea Hoffmann is the author of the book "A Gift From Darkness." Thank you so much.
HOFFMANN: Thank you.
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