On April 14th, 2014, nearly 300 Nigerian girls were kidnapped from their boarding school in Northern Nigeria by a terrorist group known as the Boko Haram. Footage from the kidnappers shows the leader of the Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, proclaiming that he took the girls because he is against Western education and that he plans on selling the girls.
Reports say that as many as 53 girls have escaped, but hundreds still remain in captivity, or have already been sold off—for the infinitesimal fee of 12 dollars.
National attention has been brought to this atrocity; the Bring Back Our Girls social media campaign bringing more awareness and involving individuals internationally. However, the Boko Haram and their kidnappings are not new occurrences.
The Boko Haram has been present in Northern Nigeria and Cameroon, Southern Niger, and Chad since 2001. The group believes in Saafist Jihadism (a “totally apolitical” and violent form of Jihadism) and Islamic fundamentalism (a controversial form of Islam, often dubbed “radical Islam”). The term “Boko Haram” translates into “western education is sin” and the goals of the terrorist organization are to establish a pure Islamic state and put an end to Westernization. The group is known for their attacking of Christians, bombing churches, kidnapping Western tourists, and many other acts of violence. Between 2002 and 2013, the Boko Haram has caused an estimated 10,000 deaths.
Thus, the April kidnappings are by far the first acts of violence or terror enacted by the Boko Haram. But until the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, these horrors were flying under the radar and unnoticed. Now, thanks to the international attention brought to the tragedy, there is hope for an end to the Boko Haram’s reign of terror.
The #BringBackOurGirls hashtag started as a response to a speech by Oby Ezekwesili, the Vice President of the World Bank of Africa. In his speech in Nigeria, he demanded the Nigerian government “bring back our girls.” His call reverberated through social media, with Tweeters everywhere starting the hashtag, which has been used in over one million Tweets worldwide. Due to this social media campaign, the Nigerian government has listened by offering rewards of $300,000 (177,000 Euros) to anyone who can provide information to help locate the girls, and accepting international help. Currently, President Obama and David Cameron (the prime minister of the United Kingdom) have both sent specialist teams to Nigeria in order to help locate the girls.
Thanks to international awareness and involvement, there is hope that the girls can be returned to the sanctity of their homes, and stay there as motions are made to stop the terrorist reign of the Boko Haram.