223 Girls: Updates

[Content Note: Abduction; terrorism; misogyny; abuse.]

Yesterday, Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram who abducted 276 girls from their school three weeks ago, released a video in which he declared that the girls were now slaves, whom he would sell.
"I abducted your girls," a man claiming to be Abubakar Shekau, the group's leader, said in a video seen by the Guardian. "I will sell them in the market, by Allah. I will sell them off and marry them off. There is a market for selling humans."

"Women are slaves. I want to reassure my Muslim brothers that Allah says slaves are permitted in Islam," he added, in an apparent reference to an ancient tradition of enslaving women captured during jihad, or holy war.

..."I will marry off a woman at the age of 12. I will marry off a girl at the age of nine," he said at another point in the video.
He is utterly brazen, showing his face and using his name on the video. Which is indicative of how little he fears consequences. And no wonder, since Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan "did not publicly comment on the abductions for two weeks and the government's clumsy handling of the case has triggered protests across almost every major city."

That official indifference has yielded to actively misdirecting energies and efforts, as protest leaders have been arrested and police detained and questioned 'Gbenga Sesan, the activist behind the Twitter campaign #BringBackOurGirls.

Further, the government, despite the establishment of its "fact-finding committee," has reportedly been resistant to receiving and processing information about the abduction:
Some parents say their attempts to pass on information to the authorities have been fruitless. Farmer Dauda said his daughter called him from a forest training camp for militants last week. "One of the Boko Haram people came on the phone and told us not to worry; that our daughter is in safe hands," he told the Guardian. "The man told us, we have warned you not to send your children to school and this is the consequence. Then he told us that if we are patient and follow their orders, we will see our daughter again. But the government are not interested in hearing when we try to speak to them."
Which is not an issue of resources, but an issue of priorities:
The government has launched a massive security operation in the capital this week as it prepares to host the World Economic Forum, at which dignitaries and heads of state will discuss Africa's positive growth story.

The glitz of the meeting will elude most ordinary Nigerians. Sitting forlornly on a plastic chair outside an Abuja police station, one woman who had travelled from Chibok to protest said: "We don't know why the government is treating us like we are less than animals. It is just really painful."
This lack of urgency to mobilize on behalf the missing girls has naturally had terrible consequences:
Reports last week said that some of the girls had been forced to marry their abductors, who paid a nominal bride price of $12 (£7).

Others are reported to have been taken across borders into Cameroon and Chad.

...[UK Foreign Office minister Mark Simmonds] told the BBC's Today programme that it was difficult for the Nigerian government because of the vast geographical area of the north-east.

"The forest area where the girls are rumoured to be being held is 60,000 sq km (23,166 sq miles). It's an area of hot dry scrub forest 40 times the size of London; it's a wild territory, very difficult for land and air-based surveillance operations to take place... you have extremely porous borders with neighbouring countries - Chad, Cameroon, Niger, so there are very serious challenges," he said.

...Boko Haram analyst Jacob Zenn says the girls, aged 16 to 18, have probably been split into smaller groups and it will be hard to track them.

"Any effort to rescue them will have to be done in a very piecemeal fashion and might take over a decade," he told the BBC's Newsday programme.
The UK and US intelligence services are coordinating efforts have offered assistance to the Nigerian government in the form of planning support, information sharing, and improving Nigeria's "forensics and investigative capacity."

Boko Haram is threatening retaliation for international intervention, and I'm not sure how thrilled the Nigerian government is for the offers of assistance—or, frankly, how useful those offers of assistance really are—but the families of the missing girls are welcoming any help on offer:
Mallam Mpur, whose two nieces are among the missing: "All I can say is, as parents we are desperate and begging. If the Nigerian government cannot help us, there is no shame in appealing to other African countries or the international community for help."
With 223 girls still missing, and the odds of rescuing them decreasing with each passing day, the biggest shame is how little much of the world seems to care.

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