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What Happened to "Bring Back Our Girls?" While the World Forgets, Boko Haram Continues Abductions

By Jennifer KimPublished November 9, 2014

Six months ago, the world erupted over the kidnapping of 276 Nigerian school girls by Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram. The issue became global, with the twitter campaign #bringbackourgirls trending worldwide and supported by widely recognized figures such as First Lady Michelle Obama. Their plight was soon forgotten, but their situation, and the attacks of Boko Haram, are far from gone.
By Jennifer Kim, 11/09/14

In April, the world erupted over the kidnapping of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls by Islamic Jihadist and terrorist organization Boko Haram. After pretending to be guards and breaking into the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria, the kidnappers took away the girls in large trucks, burning down houses as they went. Amnesty International revealed that the Nigerian military actually had a four-hour warning of the attack but failed to act to protect the school; the military confirmed this warning but claimed that their over-extended forces were unable to send reinforcements.

People around the world were in uproar: a twitter campaign, #BringBackOurGirls, went viral worldwide, supported by First Lady Michelle Obama. The Nigerian government's supposed lack of action in saving the girls led to protests not only in several Nigerian cities, but also in major Western cities including London and Los Angeles. On April 30th, hundreds of protestors marched into the Nigerian National Assembly to demand immediate government and military action to save the girls. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and UNICEF both condemned the attacks, and for several weeks, the Nigerian girls took headlines worldwide. 

And then the world forgot. As does happen to trends, the kidnapped Nigerian girls were pushed aside in favor of newer issues—months later, 219 girls remain in captivity, forced to endure unimaginable horrors. The girls are not the only ones, however—while the Chibok kidnapping was the single largest kidnapping undertaken by Boko Haram, it was only one of many different instances, and the kidnappings are still continuing. Recently, Human Rights Watch managed to bring the girls back to some spotlight by releasing a report on the current situation of the kidnapped girls, discovering that the girls make up less than half of the total number of kidnapped women and girls Boko Haram has taken since the beginning of last year—a number estimated at around 500.

The report, which was based on the accounts of over 46 witnesses and escaped victims including girls from Chibok, also released the horrors the girls currently suffer. While many of these girls are Christian, they are forced to convert to Islam, as well as marry their captors. They are raped and forced to complete work including cooking, cleaning, and carrying ammunition and stolen goods. One of the escaped victims, a 19-year-old woman, explained that she was held in hill camps for three months, becoming a military porter and slave. Not only was she forced to carry ammunition and cook for gunmen, but she was even forced to lure five young men from an opposition vigilante group into a trap. The young men were tied up and their throats slit. She reported, "I was handed a knife to kill the last man. I was shaking with horror and couldn't do it. The camp leader's wife took the knife and killed him". Many of the girls were also abducted at roadblocks set up by Boko Haram. They described specific attacks on Christians: people would be separated into Christians and Muslims, and the Muslims were freed. The Christian men and boys were killed, however, as were some of the Christian women wearing pants. The remaining Christian women and girls were taken to the camps. 

On October 17th, the Nigerian army announced a cease-fire between the government and Boko Haram, following a month of negotiations mediated in Saudi Arabia. Despite the truce, however, Boko Haram found no issue in continuing their abductions. Just recently, during weekend of October 25th, at least 30 boys and girls were abducted from a village in northern Nigeria. This attack followed an even larger kidnapping the week earlier, when the group abducted 60 women and girls n two Christian villages in the neighboring Adamawa state.  These strikes diminished hopes of the Nigerian government making a deal with Boko Haram to release their captives, despite the recent cease-fire leading to many hoping that such an agreement might be possible.

Boko Haram has become not only massively powerful but is now running rampant, openly flaunting their agreement with the government by continuing their vicious attacks. The Nigerian government's lack of effective action coupled with their dishonest claims of "breakthroughs"—upon the beginning of the crisis, they attempted to claim that they had saved the girls and were holding them at military posts, but were then forced to admit to the truth—has allowed this terrorist organization to abduct citizens without consequences. Rather than negotiations, now is the time for the Nigerian government to crack down hard on Boko Haram, possibly with reinforcements from other nations, and end the group's reign of terror that threatens the safety and religious freedom of all of Nigeria's citizens.