Many may be surprised to learn that the Boko Haram, the group responsible for kidnapping almost 300 Nigerian schoolgirls last spring, is still abducting young women. The kidnapping of the young women, mostly Christian, sparked international outrage and started a social media campaign designed to #Bring Back Our Girls. To date, approximately 65 of those girls managed to escape and more than 220 are still being held captive.
Despite assurance from the Nigerian government that the girls were to be released, the Boko Haram recently snatched about 60 more women and young girls near Maiduguri the capital city of Borno state located in northeastern Nigeria. It is reported that the older women were later released but 25 additional young girls are now being held in captivity.
The Nigerian government, with assistance from Chadian government officials, had negotiated a deal with the Boko Haram which involved a ceasefire and the release the girls in exchange for imprisoned members of the militant group. Though it appears that the militant group has not kept its side of the bargain, government authorities are still hopeful that the girls will be released.
According to Moussa Mahamat Dago, a senior member of the Chad government’s foreign ministry, the deal was brokered by representatives from the Nigerian government, the Chad officials, and the Boko Haram. Regarding the recent kidnappings, he explains, “Quite possibly those who are fighting are dissidents that even they (Boko Haram) aren’t able to control. So far, there is no reason for others to doubt this agreement.”
Residents report that the Boko Haram, a group formed in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf, a zealous cleric killed by police in 2009, stormed in on motorcycles, burning houses and killing men as they snatched women and young girls. Boko Haram means, “Western Education is a sin” and the group, now led by Abubakar Shekau, seeks to enforce strict adherence to Sharian or Islamic law. Sharian law enforces a long list of specific behaviors and beliefs. For example, under Sharian law, women are not allowed to drive and a woman who is raped may not testify against the offender.
Perhaps it is no surprise to Nigerians in the small towns of Garta and Waga Mangoro that the Boko Haram, responsible for bombing schools, churches and mosques and for killing women and children, is still abducting girls. The group seems to present a threat not only to the Nigerian government but also to the Islamic faction that would aid the government in their efforts to crackdown on the Boko Haram.
While some do not subscribe to the violence and the killings, there is great dissatisfaction with the government which is seen as largely corrupt. To many, the government is inept. Combined with widespread poverty and what many perceive as governmental violations of human rights, the Boko Haram may seem the lesser of two evils.
For the last five years or so, the group has been responsible for many bloody acts of terrorism. 25 people in Abuja were killed in a 2011 suicide attack on the United Nations building. An explosion at a Nigerian bus station in April 2014 killed more than 71 and then there are the women and girls. In November of last year, the group kidnapped dozens, forcing marriage and converting them, against their will, into the Islamic faith.
While these atrocities are happening in Nigeria and may seem far off, the Boko Haram’s leader has allegedly issued a threat to America. According to Abubakar Shekau, the elusive head of the Boko Haram, “Our strength and firepower is bigger than that of Nigeria. Nigeria is no longer a big deal to us, as far as we are concerned. We will now comfortably confront the United States of America.” With these kinds of statements being issued, it is no wonder that, despite the international uproar about the Nigerian girls being kidnapped in April, those girls have not been released and the Boko Haram is still abducting girls.
By Constance Spruill