21 Girls Have Been Released!
Back in April this year we brought your attention to the campaign for #BringBackOurGirls. Now that a little progress has been made with the recent release of 21 of the Chibok school girls, we must continue our efforts and double down in our fight to get the rest of these girls back alive.
Almost 1,000 days ago in April 2014, Boko Haram attackers stormed Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Northern Nigeria, and 276 girls were kidnapped. Dozens of gunmen engaged the soldiers guarding the school in a gun battle, leaving 2 dead. After seizing the girls, they forced them into buses, vans and trucks. They fled with the girls while burning homes and businesses in the Borno State. The convoy took the girls to an unknown location.
Northeastern Nigeria had been in conflict long before April 2014. The religious tension in this region has set off radical groups trying to overturn the government for years. In the north, the government has done a poor job allocating resources and by default, has left 3/4th of north Nigeria in poverty. As a result, radical groups such as Boko Haram have been terrorizing the north for power.
The literal translation of Boko Haram is “Western education is forbidden”. They don’t believe any woman should be educated and use women captives for sex slaves and cooks. The attack back in 2014 proved that the strength of Boko Haram was increasing as the government’s ability to protect its citizens decreased.
Human rights groups estimate that some 2,000 people, most of them women and girls, have been kidnapped by Boko Haram since 2009. However, there is no comprehensive tally of the disappeared, and some research suggests the total number could be much higher. The news trickling out of northeast Nigeria makes one thing clear: many, many other girls have been kidnapped since Chibok. To name a few:
- In the month after Chibok, Boko Haram fighters captured around 19 girls after raiding the villages of Wala and Warabe on the outskirts of the militant group’s Sambisa Forest hideout.
- That June, gunmen abducted around 60 women and children, some as young as 3 years old, from Kummabza, after holding the Nigerian village hostage for three days, local officials said.
- In December 2014, the militants abducted nearly 200 women and children from the village of Gumsuri just 15 miles down the road from Chibok. News of the mass kidnapping only emerged days later once survivors reached a nearby city, as militants had cut the village’s communications. A large number of Gumsuri captives were reportedly freed five months later, but many were killed in the Nigerian military operation.
- In March 2015, Boko Haram abducted some 300 schoolchildren and 100 women from Damasak after Nigerian forces recaptured the town, which had been seized by the militant group four months earlier. It was the largest Boko Haram school abduction ever recorded, but was never acknowledged by the Nigerian government.
It has been 943 days, or almost 2 and a half years, since almost 300 girls were taken from a secondary school in Chibok, northern Nigeria. By the time you read this, even more time will have passed.
There is some good news however. On a Thursday morning this October, just before dawn, 21 of the girls were safely released due to a deal brokered by the International Red Cross and the Swiss government. Also released was a 20-month-old infant that one of the girls had given birth to. While some 57 girls were able to escape almost immediately after being kidnapped, and two were rescued from a forest in Borno state in May, the release of 21 girls a few weeks ago has been the biggest breakthrough since they were first taken in April 2014. Once released, they were taken to meet with the governor of northeastern Nigeria’s Borno state and then to the city of Abuja. In Abuja the girls met Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo. They have been identified as by Nigerian authorities as Mary Usman Bulama, Jummai John, Blessing Abana, Lugwa Sanda, Comfort Habila, Maryam Basheer, Comfort Amos, Glory Mainta, Saratu Emannuel, Deborah Ja’afaru, Rahab Ibrahim, Helen Musa, Maryamu Lawan, Rebecca Ibrahim, Asabe Goni, Deborah Andrawus, Agnes Gapani, Saratu Markus, Glory Dama, Pindah Nuhu and Rebecca Mallam.
While we rejoice in the end of these girls’ captivity, we must not forget that there are still almost 200 girls missing, and therefore, our work is not done. It has been revealed that the Nigerian government has been working around the clock for over a year under President Muhammadu Buhari to bring all the girls back alive from one of the deadliest terror groups in the world. However, at this time, negotiations are reportedly falling through. Please learn more about how you can do your part to help support this important cause through the #BringBackOurGirls organization featured below.
Click here to learn more about #bringbackourgirls.