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May 28, 2024 Special Dispatch No. 11359

#BringBackOurGirls – A Decade After Chibok Girls Abduction By Jihadi Group Boko Haram, Whereabouts Of Around 100 Abductees Remain Unknown

May 28, 2024
Africa | Special Dispatch No. 11359

Introduction

Ten years ago, on April 14, 2014, the jihad group Boko Haram, which operates in Nigeria, kidnapped 276 schoolgirls, most of them Christian (18 were Muslims)[1] and aged between 16 and 18 at that time, from their secondary school in the town of Chibok, Borno State, in the northeast of the country.

"This unconscionable act of evil, carried out by the Boko Haram terrorist group, sparked global outrage and a rallying cry to 'Bring Back Our Girls.' A decade later, as we reflect on this dark anniversary, it is clear that the fight to rescue and recover these young women is far from over," the Nigerian media outlet Leadership wrote, adding that 96 girls are still unaccounted for.[2] Over the last 10 years, the girls that manage to escape and those that were rescued had "to grapple with the physical and psychological scars of their ordeal, their dreams and aspirations forever altered by the trauma they endured."[3]

As the media outlet Truth Nigeria reported: "At least 103 of the girls were released after a series of opaque negotiations between the Islamic terrorists and the government in 2016-2017. A few more had escaped from their captors. Some girls were later rescued after giving birth to babies of the terrorists who raped them."[4] Other girls were forced to marry their abductors.[5]


(Source: X)

Reaction To the Chibok Girls Abduction in Pakistan: "Not Just Kidnapped Or Abducted (Any Longer), [But] Enslaved"

In 2014, several Pakistani writers questioned liberal "apologists" for failing to understand the links between Islamic sharia and incidents such as the abduction of more than 200 teenage girls from a school by Nigerian jihadi group Boko Haram or the Pakistani Taliban's 2012 attack on Malala Yousafzai and the sharia justification given for it.

In an article, titled "There Is A Mini Boko Haram Thriving In Every Muslim Society" and published in the Pakistani daily Dawn, columnist Murtaza Haider wrote: "Boko Haram has taken forced conversions to another level. They have kidnapped young women, held them hostage, threatened to kill them, and offered conversion and forced marriage to Boko Haram fighters as the only way out... Muslim apologists argue that this has nothing to do with Islam or Muslims. They hastily blame the 'enemies of Islam' for propagating lies about Muslims. Scapegoating, however, will serve no purpose. Boko Haram and its ilk hurt all Muslims, but more so young women. Muslims must confront those who harm women in the name of Islam. Boko Haram may seem like a remote African tribe that abducts girls, threatens to kill them, and marries them off against their will. Some introspection should reveal that the same tendencies are alive and instrumental in all Muslim societies."

In another article, titled "Shameless apologia," journalist Kunwar Khuldune Shahid stated: "The Islamist group Boko Haram currently has around 200 schoolgirls enslaved in Nigeria. Not just kidnapped or abducted (any longer), [but] enslaved – the former terms would imply that they would be returned unharmed if the militants' demands are met. Reports of multiple rapes have already surfaced and this week Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau[6] has revealed that he considers the school girls his slaves who he will 'sell off' in marriage. He justifies his plan in a recently released video saying: 'I want to reassure my Muslim brothers that Allah says slaves are permitted in Islam.' And here is Shekau's plan in his own words: 'I will marry off a woman at the age of 12. I will marry off a girl at the age of nine.'

"So what was the crime of these schoolgirls which has led to them being enslaved and treated as war captives? Chibok's Government Girls Secondary School, from the dormitories of which these girls were initially believed to be kidnapped, teaches 'Western education.' And the name Boko Haram, which in Hausa translates into 'Western education is sinful', gives us all a comprehensive answer. Boko Haram believes that Western education is haram [forbidden], even more so for girls, who according to their ideology should not be allowed to do much without their male guardians. Attacking girls' schools has been high on Boko Haram's Sharia-enforcement agenda, in a bid to prevent these girls from being 'Westernized'. And for Pakistan, Boko Haram's antics should ring very familiar alarm bells...

"All Western reports highlighting Islamist terrorism are brimming with disclaimers, stressing upon various versions of Islam. While a debate on various interpretations of any ideology is an academic necessity, what is the immediate relevance of these disclaimers in a report narrating terrorists' acts and their own justification for said attacks? Why is there reluctance in using the term 'enslaved' in the mainstream media ever since Abubakar Shekau stated that his religion sanctions slavery? If it's about safeguarding the sensitivities of the Muslim world – 22.74 percent of the global population – why weren't the ideological sensitivities of the communists – almost an identical percentage of the global population – catered to by the Western mainstream media during the Cold War?

"It is ironic that all the endeavor of progressive Muslims is dedicated to shielding their ideology from criticism, when it's actually this critique that would lead to necessary reform, which at the end of the day is their much-touted agenda. By claiming that criticism in unjustified, and denying the rather obvious influence of religion on religious extremism, one contradicts the 'progressive' and 'reformist' labels. While there is no denying that an irrational phobia of Muslims exists all over the world – considerably less than irrational phobia of people belonging to all other religions in the Muslim world, one might add – the term 'Islamophobia', used to shield the ideology, not the people, from scrutiny – and hence reform, again, becomes a self-defeating misnomer.

"Saying that Islamists are using the 'wrong' Islam uses the same logic that Islamists use to claim that the progressives are using the 'wrong' Islam. Playing 'true and false', while thousands continue to be under the Islamist gun is a very dangerous game to play. Anyone who claims that the terrorism that is brewing owing to Islamism needs to be countered and condemned should focus on ensuring that no punches are pulled in condemnations for the acts. Whether or not the Islamist ideology is a blatant misinterpretation of 'true' Islam is tantamount to needless apologia in the immediate aftermath of an Islamist attack."[7]


(Source: Persecution.org)

Column In Nigerian Media A Decade After Chibok Girls Abduction

Remembering the ten years from the abduction of the Chibok girls, several Nigerian media outlets published articles, stressing that "a decade on, the scars remain raw, and the sense of betrayal and abandonment lingers."[8]


(Source: Pulse.ng)


(Source: X)

Following are excerpts from an article published by the Nigerian media outlet Pulse a decade after the abduction of the Chibok girls:[9]

Boko Haram Means 'Western Education Is Forbidden'

"Ten years after Chibok, Nigerian schoolchildren are still vulnerable targets for terrorists.

"Before 2014, Boko Haram was already the world's third deadliest terrorist group, responsible for the two bloodiest attacks anywhere across the globe in 2013, according to the Global Terrorism Index.

"The jihadists – targeting religious institutions, government buildings, businesses and security installations – had killed nearly 3,500 people in over 700 attacks and left nearly 2,000 wounded in its campaign of terror which started in 2009.

"The Abubakar Shekau[10]-led group even had international links to Al-Shabaab, with reports of funding and training collaboration between both terror organizations – so Nigerians were already familiar with Boko Haram's threat.

"But the terror group's abduction of 276 schoolgirls from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok on April 14, 2014, was a turning point.

"The school attack was one of the most direct statements of intent that matched the group's objective, wired into its name which translates to, 'Western education is forbidden.'

"Just a few weeks before the attack, the group had invaded the Federal Government College of Buni Yadi, Yobe State, and brutally slaughtered 59 students, all boys, but the event never captured as much attention as Chibok. 'The way the Chibok attack was done – just in terms of the sheer scope, the audacity and how vulnerable the victims were – really stood out,' Ikemesit Effiong, Partner and Head of Research at SBM Intelligence, tells Pulse Nigeria 10 years after the abduction...


Video by Boko Haram shows the abducted Christian girls clad in abayas. (Source: Pulse.ng)


Boko Haram (Source: Pulse.ng)

Government Reaction To Chibok Girls' Abduction Was "Poor"

"The reaction of the Goodluck Jonathan administration to the Chibok incident was poor – marked by passing the blame, alleging political theatrics, and even questioning the authenticity of the event. This naturally affected the security response, and the fate of 276 vulnerable schoolgirls dangled in the balance.

"Their loved ones couldn't afford the same complacency, and the agitation for their return eventually birthed the Bring Back Our Girls campaign which blew up around the world, including notably in the White House where the then-first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, protested with a cardboard.

"The notoriety of the Chibok event amplified Boko Haram's reputation even more in the international community and the group capitalized on this to further blackmail the Nigerian establishment, threatening to sell the girls into slavery...

"It took another four years, but Boko Haram struck again and kidnapped 111 schoolgirls, and two other primary schoolchildren, from the Government Girls' Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe. The terror group released 107 of the students one month later, buried five of them who died in custody and held onto Leah Sharibu who refused to convert to Islam...carried out other mass school abductions in Kankara in Katsina where over 300 schoolboys were kidnapped in December 2020; Kagara in Niger where 21 students and teachers were kidnapped in February 2021; and Jangebe in Zamfara where over 300 students were kidnapped, also in February 2021. As recently as March 2024, terrorists kidnapped 137 schoolchildren from Lea Primary School and Government Secondary School Kuriga in Kaduna... While many of the victims in these abductions made it back home to their loved ones, some also lost their lives during attacks or in captivity.


Leah Sharibu is still in the custody of Boko Haram faction, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), six years after her abduction from school in Dapchi. (SPurce: Pulse.ng)

"... The knock-on effect is that the government's response to Chibok-level events has been a mix of indifference and a clear lack of strategy. The mismanagement isn't much of a departure from how the Nigerian government typically manages everything else, but it stings nonetheless, especially due to how fatal it is for many and how disorienting the state of things is for the populace in general. Chibok-level events constitute clear and present danger, but the government has failed in 10 years to coordinate a convincing response to safeguard lives and property...

"While the 276 Chibok girls were being transported to Boko Haram's operational base in Sambisa Forest, 57 of them escaped by jumping off the trucks and running into the forest before making their way back home.

"[Former Nigerian President Muhammadu] Buhari, who made the retrieval of the girls a major part of his victorious 2015 election campaign, negotiated with Boko Haram to release some of the girls – 21 of them in October 2016, and 82 more girls in May 2017, in exchange for a €3 million ransom and the release of five Boko Haram commanders.

"Over a dozen more of the girls have separately been found or escaped from the terror group since then, but 91 [some media outlets say 96] of them are still unaccounted for 10 years later...

"If Nigeria does not become more serious now, already 10 years too late, about effectively dealing with the problem, nothing will stop the next Chibok event from happening tomorrow. That's a real tragedy."

 

[1] Truthnigeria.com/2024/05/rescued-chibok-girls-married-off-to-repentant-boko-haram-commanders-christian-leader/, April 14, 2024.

[2] Leadership.ng/chibok-girls-a-decade-of-anguish/, April 14, 2024.

[3] Leadership.ng/chibok-girls-a-decade-of-anguish/, April 14, 2024.

[4] Ttruthnigeria.com/2024/05/rescued-chibok-girls-married-off-to-repentant-boko-haram-commanders-christian-leader/, May 22, 2024.

[5] Truthnigeria.com/2024/05/rescued-chibok-girls-married-off-to-repentant-boko-haram-commanders-christian-leader/, April 14, 2024.

[6] See MEMRI Daily Brief No. 287, "Security Concerns In Nigeria Follow Death Of Boko Haram Leader Abubakar Shekau," by  Ali Karami, June 16, 2021.

[8] Leadership.ng/chibok-girls-a-decade-of-anguish/, April 14, 2024.

[9] Pulse.ng/news/local/boko-haram-kidnapped-chibok-girls-10-years-ago-in-2014/tpbkm6j, April 14, 2024.

[10] See MEMRI Daily Brief No. 287, "Security Concerns In Nigeria Follow Death Of Boko Haram Leader Abubakar Shekau," by  Ali Karami, June 16, 2021.

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