Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared carrying 239 people and drew international front-page headlines and cooperation for weeks. Terrorist thugs kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria but it took three weeks before international experts were asked to join the search. The kidnapping by Boko Haram, part of their ongoing terror spree, should be garnering more attention and outrage than whatever the latest “news” about Miley Cyrus, Willow Smith or a Kardashian/Jenner girl might.
Hundreds of girls asleep in their boarding school were awakened and hustled into the forest by militants more than three weeks ago. While 43 escaped their captors, 276 girls, ages 12 to 15, are still missing and the terrorists are threatening to sell them into slavery.
This large kidnapping is just one of numerous abductions of females by Boko Haram, and the Nigerian government has been impotent to deal with the situation. The Nigerian military claimed hours after the abduction that it had rescued most of the girls, a blatant lie that was recanted after the girls’ parents were publicly telling a different story.
The Nigerian government has done little too. Mass protests in the streets lead to them finally accept international help. This week it was announced that British Special Forces and U.S. Pentagon advisors are going to Nigeria to assist, and other countries including France and China are volunteering assistance. This is nearly one month after their disappearance. Everyone should be outraged that acts by Miley Cyrus or Willow Smith attract more news than such blatant acts by Boko Haram and the lack of response by Nigeria.
So, who or what is Boko Haram? Boko Haram is a group of militant Islamic fanatics. The group’s name means “Western education is a sin” in an area dialect. They object to educating women, who then believe should from age 12 up by married and bearing children, and Western education for reinforcing colonial/Christian influence. The kidnapping spate began in May 2013 and has largely targeted places of education and young women, who are taken into the vast forests and forced to be slaves performing chores and sex acts. Boko Haram members are elusive, remaining on the move to avoid detection.
Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, came to power five years ago. The United States has offered a reward of up to $7 million for information leading to him. But similar reward offers have not been effective. There has been a bounty on African warlord Joseph Kony for years and the $25 million offered for Osama bin Laden did not lead to his capture.
What is at stake in stopping Boko Haram? Besides the fate of innocent schoolgirls, here are some of the broader impacts:
- The abductions have spread fear to other parents in the area who are now hesitant about sending girls to school.
- Nigerian is a country of 174 million that is relatively well off for the area because of its oil fields. In fact, its economy is one-fifth of Africa’s total and its size is larger than Texas.
- The Boko Haram has paramilitary capabilities and the terrorist group’s operations in Nigeria’s Muslim north are increasing.
- The terrorism threat in Africa is growing and needs more attention. There was the assassination of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and others in Libya in 2012, the attack on a natural gas facility in Algeria that killed 40 foreigners in 2013, and terrorists tried to take over Mali later that year.
The Boko Haram situation in Nigeria – and the fates of hundreds of girls – should be drawing outrage throughout the world, more so than ‘news’ photos of Willow Smith on a bed or Miley Cyrus’ attire. The people in Nigeria should not be living in constant fear and should be able to educate their girls with the full protection of the police, military and government. It should not have taken mass public demonstrations to get the Nigerian government to work with other countries to try to find the missing. International cooperation may not have located Flight 370, but at least the effort was massive. The same needs to be done here; hopefully, it is not too little too late.
Opinion by Dyanne Weiss