Daily Trust on Saturday spoke with Hajiya Zara, popularly known as Zara JTF, who is among the first women in Borno State dedicated to warring against the Boko Haram insurgency. She recently relocated to Damaturu, the Yobe State capital. She narrates how the slaying of her husband and children by terrorists set her on that path.
Can you give us a background on yourself?
I was born in Kukareta village of Damaturu local government area of Yobe State. But marriage took me to Benishek in Borno State. But when Boko Haram killed my husband and children and laid siege to the town, I relocated to Maiduguri.
How old are you now?
When I was born we were not attending school in my house, but I think I should not be less than 67 years of age.
What made you take this step of being a part of the Civilian JTF, considering the fact that you are a woman and that you are already advanced in age.
The truth is that despite being a woman, the killing of my husband and children by the insurgents, Boko Haram, pushed me to take up arms against them because of the pain I feel and the attack on Benishek, our town. So the quest for revenge propelled me and so far, Alhamdulillah!
What do you mean?
Ah! I must say so because revenge was my sole aim when I joined the fight and I have succeeded in seeing to the destruction of many of the insurgents. I will not rest until I see the death of them all I will not relent in my effort.
Was it in your presence that your family was killed? How did you escape it?
At the time they were killed, I was at home and so were they (she begins to weep). That was when I ran to the forest along with others in the community and later made my way to Maiduguri.
The Civilian JTF is made up of young gallant men. Also, Boko Haram makes use of some modern weapons. Do you use charms to meet up?
Honestly, I have no charms, but only seek help from Allah. I also seek help from imams to protect me from harm. Well, even though I am a woman, it still does not prevent me from doing what both my male and female siblings do, including those that are younger than I am. We all confront Boko Haram and fight, we the Civilian JTF alongside the military, times without number.
Can you tell us places where you have confronted the insurgents?
We have held battles in many different places in Maiduguri, and their big camps in the forest and we have been victorious. So we thank Allah.
What made you decide to leave Maiduguri and relocate to Damaturu?
I am from Yobe State and my parents need me at this time. That is my reason.
Since you returned, have you had any face-off in line with what you do?
Yes! Since I returned I have dealt with small thieves that terrorise the neighbourhood where I reside. We do not sleep but move around, I and some other youths that care for the community. That is how we apprehended some outlaws and handed them over to the authorities. When a bomb exploded on Sallah day, I caught a female carrying a bomb on her back and handed her to the military Joint Task Force.
Are you not afraid of weapons or bombs going off when you apprehend such a person like you said you did?
When I am in a place I do not believe that any harm, be it through a bomb or a gun, can come to me. If Allah wills, there is hardly anything that can harm me.
Do you have anything to say to the people or government of Yobe State concerning what you do?
My plea to the people is to continue praying that God will give us victory against Boko Haram and to the government that they should provide us with good weapons and vehicles that we can use. If they can do this, they have done everything that I need.