James Khalil, MaryAnne Iwara, & Martine Zeuthen

Journeys through Extremism: The Experiences of Forced Recruits in Boko Haram


This case study provides exploratory research into the personal journeys of forced recruits into Boko Haram, to examine how they entered the organization, the conditions they experienced in camps and settlements, their exits from the group, their subsequent experiences in state hands, and their perspectives about future reintegration. These themes are particularly pertinent given the mass disengagements from Boko Haram in spring 2022, and the extent to which federal and state systems lack the capacity to absorb and handle the large numbers involved.

Research was undertaken at Operation Safe Corridor (OPSC), a program established in 2016 by the Nigerian state to provide an off-ramp for members of Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) deemed to be ‘low risk’ by military intelligence. Located at Mallam Sidi on the outskirts of Gombe, the OPSC program houses cohorts of around six hundred clients at any point in time. This report features the findings from thirteen in-depth interviews with participants in the OPSC program to provide important insights into the state-sponsored off-ramp from this group. 

Suggested citation: Khalil, James, MaryAnne Iwara, & Martine Zeuthen, Journeys through Extremism: The Experiences of Forced Recruits in Boko Haram. Washington, DC: RESOLVE Network, 2022. https://doi.org/10.37805/cbags2022.2.


This publication and research were produced with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Africa Bureau. RESOLVE would like to thank USAID’s Africa Bureau for its generous support for this report and RESOLVE’s Community-Based Armed Groups Research Initiative.

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the RESOLVE Network, acknowledged partners contributing to the production of this publication,
the U.S. Institute of Peace, or any entity of the U.S. government.


Updated: September 7, 2023