In the last five years, terrorist group Boko Haram has kidnapped more than 1,000 children in West Africa, most of them young girls forced into sexual slavery. Today, on International Day of the Girl, Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark Thirty”) released a series of videos detailing the harrowing stories of young women who were abducted by Boko Haram, escaped captivity and lived to tell the tale.
The women in “I Am Not A Weapon” survived their experiences through a combination of bravery, guile and luck. Many of them refused to marry their captors and were eventually assigned to carry out suicide bombings. They were given rudimentary explosive devices and detonators, dropped off near civilization and told to martyr themselves near a group of security forces or in a crowded marketplace.
“My heart kept skipping because I felt I was going to die at any moment,” says Hajja, who was kidnapped in a house-by-house raid in the middle of the night.
Rather than carrying out the mission, the women found help, whether soldiers, police or a group of young boys, to help them disarm or discard the bombs. “I prefer to die alone with the bomb” rather than harm innocent people, says Hadiza.
The women hide their faces, either in shadow or with their hands, because of the stigma they face as survivors. Nine women tell their stories in individual videos, and a trailer (above) ties the project together. The interviews were recorded and directed by Bigelow and journalist Dionne Searcey, with photography by Adam Ferguson. It is a collaboration with producer Patrick Milling-Smith, co-founder of production company Smuggler.
The videos are available on Instagram and at IAmNotAWeapon.com, a site designed by Austin agency Preacher, which previously worked with Bigelow on the 2014 short film “Last Days of Ivory.” Preacher also enlisted the International Rescue Committee to increase distribution and promotion.