To start off, let’s discuss the history of this group. It all started in 2004, when Mohammed Yusuf, a Muslim sect leader, aimed to replace Nigeria’s government with a strict Islamic state. Even though he was killed in the 2009 Nigerian sectarian violence, the terrorist group lived on. Today it is under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau. This man and his followers will do anything to make Nigeria return to the pre-colonial era of Muslim rule.
Boko Haram has planted weekly bombs in public and has set fire to many different schools since 2004. In March 2012, about twelve public schools in Maiduguri were burned down during the night, and as many as 10,000 pupils were forced out of education (United States Institute of Peace). One of the most shocking and appalling actions taken by Boko Haram is the kidnapping of schoolgirls. In mid-April of 2014 about 200 were kidnapped from Chibok boarding school in northern Nigeria. That was, according to Nnamdi Obasi, a senior Nigeria analyst for the International Crisis Group, “the largest number of children abducted in one swoop in the country”.
These 200 schoolgirls were put in a camp in a forest right outside the village of Baale and were forced to become sex and work slaves. You are probably wondering why a group does something like that. How people could come together and develop such a cruel, horrendous plan for kidnapping innocent children (I will never be able to understand the answer of the latter).
Because most of these girls are Christian, Boko Haram wants to eliminate them as threats in order to achieve their goal of having a strict Islamic state in Nigeria. What is even worse and more threatening in the eyes of the terrorist group is that these schoolchildren are being taught western education. With the view that “western education is a sin”, Boko Haram has a mission of stopping that kind of secular learning. The organization is afraid that such a western influence will impede the group from accomplishing their goals. This is the main reason for these kidnappings.
“We thought they were soldiers,” a 17-year-old girl, who was kidnapped from Chibok boarding school in April, said in a phone interview with the LA Times. “They told us to get out of our hostels, saying that they had been sent to take us to safety because Boko Haram was attacking the town. […] Suddenly they began to chant “Allahu Akbar’ [God is great] as they set the school building on fire. That was when we realized we were in the hands of Boko Haram. It was too late to contemplate escape, because we could see from the expression on the [gunmen’s] faces that they were ready to shoot any of us who tried to flee.”
“In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes, their dreams and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.” – Michelle Obama on the Weekly Address, May 10th, 2014
This is and should be a prime concern for the rest of the world. However, it seems that, while many articles are being published about it, basic facts about these kidnappings seem to be missing. The Nigerian government, local officials, and world newspapers are all giving conflicting accounts. That is why we still do not know precisely how many girls were kidnapped, at what time they were kidnapped, and who exactly was kidnapped. One of the most frustrating aspects is that Nigerians are not getting a lot of information on rescue efforts. Few facts are being released and that is causing tremendous uproar. If we know so little about the situation, it will be impossible to stop this terrorist organization from repeating its actions and striking again. The only way they can be stopped is by being proactive and that is only possible if people know the basic facts about such attacks.