On April 14th, 2014, the West-African terrorist group Boko Haram executed a mass kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in the remote area of Chibok, Nigeria. Eight years later, more than 100 of the girls are still missing, and many more have been taken since. Since 2014, about half of the girls who were taken have been able to return home. 57 made the courageous decision to jump from the trucks that were transporting them, and an additional 82 were released and rescued in 2017. Unfortunately, these instances are not particularly rare in Nigeria and Western Africa, as it is a tactic that Boko Haram has been employing for years.
The terrorist group was founded in 2002 and worked alongside other groups, such as ISIS, since its inception. They have been responsible for multiple mass kidnappings, and are estimated to have taken more than 1,000 children since 2014, mostly school-aged girls. This is most likely due to the fact that kidnapping has turned into a lucrative business for Boko Haram. The Chibok kidnapping quickly captured international attention, and mounting external pressure pushed the Nigerian government to dedicate lots of time and resources to trying to rescue these girls, no matter the cost. Being aware of this trend, Boko Haram targets young girls and will release them for high ransom payments from the families of the girls or even the government itself.
But while this might look like a business transaction to the terrorist group, thousands of girls have suffered as a result. We know through diaries kept by the girls and interviews done with survivors that the children were kept in abhorrent conditions during their captivity. They were often deprived of food and water, beaten, or tortured, which led to the deaths of 40 of the Chibok girls. Some of the victims have also been forced into marriages with Boko Haram groups members.
Another consequence of this trend is that it deters parents from sending their daughters to school. The school in Chibok had been closed for 4 weeks leading up to the kidnapping due to safety concerns but had been reopened for the day so that the students could take their final exams. Women’s education has been cited by the UN as a “leading determinant of economic growth,” which is something that Nigeria is desperately in need of, with a poverty rate of more than 70%.
Despite the international attention and resources directed towards the rescue and return of the Chibok girls, 112 are still missing. Despite the time-lapse, many parents of the girls are still hopeful for their return, such as Enock Mark, whose two daughters are still missing. Al-Jazeera interviewed Mark in 2019, who still travels 900 km to the nation’s capital of Abuja to learn if there are any updates on the case. “We won’t give up. Even in a hundred years, we will keep believing that our daughters will return home. Until we all die, we won’t stop believing that our daughters will come back,” said Mark.
If you would like to support the families and children of Ethiopia, use the hashtag #bringbackourstudents or visit Amnesty International’s website.