Knifar Women

When HumAngle first encountered the Knifar women, a group advocating for the release of thousands of men wrongfully detained in conflict-ridden Borno, many of the women were still uncertain about the fate of their husbands or sons. They had been enduring this struggle for years.

How did this happen?

As members of the community fled from Boko Haram terrorists, they were halted by soldiers who segregated the men from the women. Often, the men were subsequently blindfolded and transported to a prison facility in Bama.

Some accounts suggest that the officers subjected them to physical abuse before their removal. While the men were shuttled between various military detention centres, their wives, mothers, and daughters grappled with starvation, illness, and hardship in IDP camps. Reports from the IDP community in Bama consistently documented up to 15 to 30 deaths per day at the hospital camp alone.

The formation and steadfast determination of the Knifar women represented a beacon of hope. However, their efforts remained largely unnoticed by the media.

Comprised of IDPs whose husbands were missing, the Knifar group took proactive steps by establishing a support network for women whose husbands fell victim to forced disappearance. They also kept mounting pressure on the authorities for the release of the detained men.

Inspired by their actions, HumAngle embarked on sharing their stories in 2020, a few years after the organisation’s inception. We amplified their voices by empowering them to share their narratives authentically. There have been significant waves of releases since this work started. HumAngle remains committed to empowering these women by providing them with a platform to reach a global audience.

Our inaugural report on the Knifar movement was released in September 2020. By July of the following year, the army cleared over a thousand men of affiliations with Boko Haram. More men have been released over time. However, thousands remain detained in these facilities.

Presently, HumAngle employs a considerable number of these women as reporters and fixers, thereby enabling other members of the community to share their stories. We take pride in the resilience of the Knifar women and the significant role we have played in securing the release of their husbands while substantially improving their economic standing.

Watch the story of the Knifar women in Nigeria’s Northeast: how they organise, advocate, and mobilse as though their lives depend on it – because it does.

Watch the videos of the Knifar women talk about their husbands in captivity and the situation the find themselves in.

Watch “The Displaced”, an animated series on the vestiges of the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria through one family’s displacement. 

Listen to Vestiges of Violence, a podcast on these personal stories of violence victims, mainly the Knifar women.