On April 15, in the town of Chibok, Nigeria, a group of gunmen stormed a boarding school pretending to be police officers. The men turned out to be militants from Boko Haram, the Islamic extremist group. They ended up kidnapping 276 schoolgirls that day.
This event took place in 2014, over three years ago. Today, nearly 200 of those girls remain captive.
Parents of the missing girls are devastated by the lack of results from the Nigerian government. Nigerian government officials said recently that they were currently negotiating the release of the missing girls.
A similar claim had been made just a few months ago, and bore no results. These types of statements bring little hope to the parents who have witnessed the government repeatedly exaggerate its success against the terrorist group.
The abduction caused a social media campaign to raise awareness about the incident using the hashtag, #bringbackourgirls. Students, activists, and mothers joined together to form the group Bring Back Our Girls, dedicated to ensuring the rescue of the kidnapped girls.
As part of the three-year anniversary of the abduction, the group planned lectures and protests. They hope to raise awareness to the fact that the Nigerian government has been promising to rescue the girls for years now with no results.
The group fears that the government will grow distracted by other crises happening in the country and push aside the issue of the missing girls.
“We know Nigeria has several challenges, and we continue to put pressure on the government,” said Rotimi Olawale, a group spokesman, in an interview with the New York Times. “We continue to advocate that this becomes a priority for the government, and it doesn’t go to the back burner.”
Since the abduction some of the girls have managed to escape. Twenty-one others were released in October 2016. Escapees have described their experience in captivity to the Human Rights Watch. Their accounts of what occurred included horrific sexual abuse and forced underage marriage.
The girls in captivity are not limited to the schoolgirls from Chibok. Boko Haram has kidnapped hundreds of other girls. Since the mass abduction in Chibok, their tactics have gotten even more gruesome. Besides being forced into marriage, kidnapped girls are also forced to fight for the group, help kidnap others, and are used as suicide bombers.
As a result, Bring Back Our Girls is also calling for a national registry of missing persons. The registry would include those who have been abducted by Boko Haram.
The Human Rights Watch additionally noted that since there is a stigma around sexual abuse and the loss of virginity in the conservative northeastern part of Nigeria, rapes by Boko Haram are largely underreported.
A girl named Amina Ali Darsha Nkeki managed to escape Boko Haram and was found wandering the outskirts of Nigeria’s Sambisa Forest. Since then she’s been held by Nigeria’s intelligence agency. Many say the government is keeping her silent because they do not want the world to know about their lack of success with Boko Haram.
It is with great hope that the efforts made by Bring Back Our Girls will put more pressure on the government to honor the lives of these innocent girls by making a more determined effort to secure their release.
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