In a horrible turn of events, more than 200 Nigerian school girls who were abducted from a rural boarding school in the north-eastern town of Chibok, by a militant Islamist group called Boko Haram – whose name stands for ‘Western education is sinful’ – two weeks ago, still remain missing and the outlook looks grim.
While several of the girls managed to escape, the nation, traumatized school peers, and anguished parents struggle to understand why the Nigerian government has failed to act with any sense of urgency, to help find and rescue those who remain captive. Last week, the girls’ fathers launched an independent search in a remote forest to look for their daughters and have pleaded with the government to help rescue them. While Chibok officials had initially reported that nearly all of the girls had escaped and “regained their freedom,” official statements have proved to be premature and unreliable; and the kidnappings seem to underscore how ineffective the military is at protecting those civilians living in the midst of Boko Haram’s upheaval, since innocent citizens are the ones being targeted, as opposed to the government and security forces Boko Haram is railing against.
This story has resonated with many folks on a global level and people are left trying to parse how something like this could happen and why the media (read: U.S. media platforms) hasn’t done enough to, at the very least, help signal boost the story. And since certain folk seem to think they have all the answers to solving social justice ills committed against Black people, perhaps they can help shed some insight and brainstorm ways to help raise awareness?
Blatant editorial shade aside…
Reports allege that some of the girls may have been trafficked across the border into certain parts of Chad and Cameroon, sold for 2,000 naira each ($12.50), and forced to marry insurgents; which brings little comfort to frustrated parents.
According to The Guardian …
“On Sunday, the searchers were told that the students had been divided into at least three groups, according to farmers and villagers who had seen truckloads of girls moving around the area. One farmer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the insurgents had paid leaders dowries and fired celebratory gunshots for several minutes after conducting mass wedding ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday.
‘It’s unbearable. Our wives have grown bitter and cry all day. The abduction of our children and the news of them being married off is like hearing of the return of the slave trade,’ said Yakubu Ubalala, whose 17- and 18-year-old daughters Kulu and Maimuna are among the disappeared.”
That the girls dared to get an education, may have been what prompted Boko Haram’s motives; particularly considering their beliefs are rooted in anti-education and any other social or political activity ascribed to Western culture. The group’s presence emerged in Northern Nigeria in the early 2000’s and is responsible for a spate of bombings and mass murders across Nigeria and was founded by a 30-year-old Muslim sect leader named Muhammad Yusuf — who was killed in 2009 by Nigerian security forces — and is currently being led by Abubakar Muhammad Shekau.
Wednesday, hundreds of women gathered in Abuja for a ‘million woman march’ protest to help press the release of the school girls and to prompt action by the government. During an emergency meeting, The First Lady of Borno Hajiyah Nana, urged leaders and their wives to put their religious and ethnic differences aside to galvanize and come up with solutions to bring the girls home to their parents.
The Nigerian government has come under fire for their ineptitude, lack of response, and refusal to divulge what their plan of action would be. While authorities claim that the girls’ safety is a priority, they reportedly called off three separate rescue attempts, claiming looming threats of being ambushed and of the girls being killed. ‘Million woman’ protest organizer Hadiza Bala Usman, told the BBC that women wanted to know why military forces seem ill-equipped to find the girls and that the delay, coupled with the mass abduction, would dissuade girls from pursuing an education. Usman also said,
“It is not clear why the rescue operation is not making headway considering the fact that there’s a clear idea of the perimeter area where these kids were taken in the first week – to the Sambisa forest. And the camps of the insurgents are within the Sambisa forest. Information is coming out that our own soldiers are not well-equipped; that they do not have the ammunition required to do this. How come our soldiers are having some of these challenges in the field?”
The mass kidnappings have prompted hashtag campaigns on Twitter: #BringBackOurGirls and #BringBackOurDaughters as well as a Change.org petition, to help increase awareness and spur the government to proactivity.