AISHA BOKO HARAM HUNTRESS

AISHA BOKO HARAM HUNTRESS

Aisha Bakari Gombi has reached real-life superhero status for her battlefield bravery in her fight against Boko Haram.

Hunter and university graduate Bamanga, right, shows Aisha how to use her new smartphone. ROSIE COLLYER/AL JAZEERA

Hunter and university graduate Bamanga, right, shows Aisha how to use her new smartphone. ROSIE COLLYER/AL JAZEERA

 

Since the dawn of humanity, hunters have roamed the forests and savannahs of Africa. Fast forward to the 21st century, and there is no big game left in northeastern Nigeria. Artillery fire exchanged between Boko Haram fighters and the Nigerian military has scared the animals away.

Now, hunters track and capture rebel fighters. Feared for their superior tracking skills and their belief in the supernatural, they help the military hunt down Boko Haram.

With little or no money from the authorities, hunters rely on locally made weapons to fight a heavily armed enemy.

Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates to “Western education is forbidden”, has waged a 10-year armed campaign to create an Islamic state in northeastern Nigeria.

The group has killed tens of thousands, displaced 2.3 million from their homes, and is ranked among the world’s deadliest armed groups.

Aisha and hunters under her command take a break from tracking Boko Haram deep inside Sambisa Forest. ROSIE COLLYER/AL JAZEERA

Aisha and hunters under her command take a break from tracking Boko Haram deep inside Sambisa Forest. ROSIE COLLYER/AL JAZEERA

Chief among the hunters is Aisha Bakari Gombi. She is the “Queen Hunter”, a title given to her for bravery on the battlefield. Aisha and her band of hunters defend their communities.

Boko Haram’s camps are in the forests and mountains where Aisha went hunting with her father as a child.

She knows the Sambisa Forest like the back of her hand. It is a sacred place for hunters, so liberating it from Boko Haram fighters carries a special significance.

Hunters know Sambisa Forest better than anyone, so the military uses them to track down fighters who hide there. ROSIE COLLYER/AL JAZEERA

Hunters know Sambisa Forest better than anyone, so the military uses them to track down fighters who hide there. ROSIE COLLYER/AL JAZEERA

The hunters have liberated hundreds of people held captive by Boko Haram. Rescuing children is what motivates Aisha. In 2017, she became pregnant for the first time, aged 39. Until then Aisha had thought she was unable to conceive, and every child she helped liberate felt like a surrogate rebirth.

When Aisha is not fighting Boko Haram, she conforms to the norms of the village where she lives with her husband. Northern Nigeria is a place where a woman’s domain is mainly confined to the home and raising children.

Aisha was single for many years until her fight against Boko Haram captured the heart of her now husband, Muhammadu. ROSIE COLLYER/AL JAZEERA

Aisha was single for many years until her fight against Boko Haram captured the heart of her now husband, Muhammadu. ROSIE COLLYER/AL JAZEERA

Aisha’s extraordinary life in recent years has taken her to places where only the bravest of men and women would dare go. Her story has become folklore in northern Nigeria, where the “Queen Hunter” features in real-life superhero stories.

Rosie Collyer / Al Jazeera

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Nigerians in South Africa
Nigerians in South Africa 9744 posts

We are about democracy, human rights, public opinion, political behavior, civil rights and policy aimed at improving the human condition, with a focus on African countries.

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