Almost a year after she was rescued from Boko Haram captivity by the Nigerian army, 16-year-old Zara John is still in love with one of the Islamic militants who abducted her.
She was delighted to discover that she was pregnant with his child following a urine and blood test carried out by a doctor in the refugee camp to which she was taken after her rescue.
“I wanted to give birth to my child so that I can have someone to replace his father since I cannot reconnect with him again,” said Zara, one of hundreds of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants during a seven-year insurgency in northeast Nigeria.
But any decision over the baby was taken out of her hands.
Her father drowned during flooding in 2010 so her uncles intervened. Some were adamant they did not want a Boko Haram offspring in their family and insisted on an abortion. Others felt the child should not be blamed for its father’s crimes.
In the end, the majority carried the vote and Zara was allowed to keep her child, a son she named Usman who is now about seven months old.
“Everybody in the family has embraced the child,” Zara told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview, asking that her location remain undisclosed. “My uncle just bought him tins of Cerelac (instant cereal) and milk.”
Zara was aged 14 when Boko Haram militants fighting to establish an Islamist state raided her village of Izge, in northeast Nigeria, in February 2014.
They razed homes in the village, slaughtered men, and loaded women, girls and children into trucks.
Two of Zara’s brothers were out of town when the militants struck in one of a wave of hit-and-run attacks on villages as well as suicide bombings on places of worship or markets.
Zara’s mother fell off one of the overloaded trucks but tried to chase after the vehicle that was ferrying away her only daughter and her four-year-old son but was unable to keep up as the truck headed 22 km (14 miles) road journey to Bita.