234 Girls

[Content Note: Terrorism; abduction; violence.]

On April 14, there was a major terrorist attack on a Nigerian bus station, killing 75 people and injuring many more. The jihadist organization Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the bombing, and, later that same day, Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sinful" in the northern Hausa language, abducted 234 girls from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State.

The girls are still missing.

And as the search for them continues, Boko Haram are threatening "to kill the abducted students, should the search to recover them continue."

At the Guardian, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani describes the mood in Nigeria:
More than a week since they disappeared, the girls' whereabouts are still unknown. About 44 escaped by jumping from the back of trucks used to ferry them away or by sneaking out of the kidnappers' camp deep inside the Sambisa forest. This latest tragedy has dominated national conversation and consumed columns in our newspapers. At Christian and Muslim gatherings prayers have been offered for the girls' safety.

In the days since they went missing, almost every friend or colleague I have spoken to on the phone has devoted the first minutes of our chat to expressing their horror at the abduction. Despite what one would imagine is the bottomless capacity of Nigerians to absorb catastrophe – what with the series of carnages that have steadily erupted in the country over the past year, at least – people here seem particularly affected.

Perhaps it is the audacity with which the crime was perpetrated, the innocence of the victims, or horror at what the children might be going through wherever they might be – Boko Haram has abducted women and girls in the past to serve as sex slaves and chars.

The Nigerian military interrupted the national mood of grief when its spokesperson announced two days after the incident that the missing girls had been rescued. But national jubilation quickly deflated when the school's principal and the students' parents revealed the story to be false. Now our collective horror at the abductions is almost equaled by our revulsion at the military's brazen deceit. What on earth could they have been thinking?

Additional claims by some of the parents have led to more criticism of the military. Fathers and mothers, who in desperation marched into the Sambisa forest to search for their missing daughters, say they saw no trace of military presence in the area; no sign of any search and rescue operation. Some of these parents have now hired motorcycles to help their search.

Beyond grief, many Nigerians are also bewildered by the abductions. How many trucks were required to transfer well in excess of 200 girls? Was the convoy not spotted by anyone as it left the school? Were there no security agents along the route?
The international media has not given the attention to this story that it deserves and needs, the kind of attention that creates pressure to make things happen and get questions answered.

Right now, it's crucial to amplify this story, to actively care about the missing girls. It is the best thing we can do in the hope that they will be found and make their way home. Share this story; talk about what's happening; if you're on Twitter, follow and participate in the hashtags #helpthegirls and #bringbackourdaughters.

UPDATE: Here is a petition to "bring this situation to the notice of the UN, UNWomen, UNIFEM, and other international organization that can put significant pressure on the Nigerian Government. These 234 girls need to be found and returned to the safety of their families and homes."

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