Women fleeing Burkina Faso violence face sexual assault

KAYA, BURKINA FASO (AP) — A 20-year-old woman could no longer live in her village amid the rising violence caused by extremists. But she needed to return and retrieve the family’s cows in hopes of selling them.

If her husband went, extremist would almost certainly kill him. She went instead, and was dragged into the bush, beaten and raped at knifepoint.

“I screamed, but I couldn’t overtake him, so I cried,” she recalled in a phone interview from Barsalogho town in the Centre North region where she now lives. The Associated Press does not identify victims of sexual violence.

The extremist violence in Burkina Faso linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group is fuelling an increase in sexual assaults against women, especially those displaced by attacks. Many are preyed upon as they attempt to collect belongings they left behind.

The violence killed more than 2,000 people last year, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. It also displaced more than one million people.

In Burkina Faso’s Centre North region, sexual assault cases increased from two to 10 during a three-month period last year, according to a report by humanitarian groups including the United Nations (UN).

Some 85 per cent of survivors were internally displaced people mainly living in makeshift camps in Barsalogho and Kaya towns, it said.