Mercy Paul, 18, escaped the captive clutches of the Boko Haram. Just a short seven months ago, the Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram, stormed into a village in northern Nigeria and kidnapped more than 200 girls. In video released from the organization, the militants’ leader claimed that the girls had converted over to Islam and would be sold in the market. Dozens of girls escaped during the raid, including Paul.
Paul is currently living in the United States and starting her first day of school in Canyonville, Oregon. Her smile is bright as she exhibits no sign of traumatization over her ordeal in Nigeria. Paul recounts how the Boko Haram set the girls’ school ablaze and forced them all onto trucks, driving them deep into the forest.
Her captors warned them that escape was futile and there would be no way for them to escape. “They told us they would kill us,” said Paul. “I jumped,” Paul continued, not knowing if she would be able to walk or die. More than 200 other girls were not as fortunate and still remain captive.
The kidnapping of almost 33 girls in Nigeria sparked a global fury and an online campaign, Bring Back Our Girls. The campaign received high-profile support from celebrities like Angelina Jolie and First Lady Michelle Obama. The hopes and dreams of their daughters could be seen in the kidnapped girls according to Obama.
Currently, Boko Haram has thousands of residents fleeing their homes in Kukawa and Gubio and heading to the Borno State capital, Maiduguri. A letter allegedly written by the terrorist group threatened an imminent attack and residents are leaving in car loads moving into refugee camps or seeking out relatives living in the capital.
According to Modu Kaka, a fleeing resident, after hearing of Boko Haram’s attack in Damasak where a similar threat was issued, nothing was left to chance. Another fleeing resident claimed the terrorist group tried to give them an option of joining the group or leaving in a hurry without any belongings.
A Borno State government senior official confirmed the mass exodus. An estimated fifteen local governments within the Borno State are either fully or partially under the control of the Islamists. More than 120,000 residents are currently displaced across the state.
Boko Haram killed 20 people on Monday in an attack on two villages on the outskirts of Chibok. In April close to 300 girls were abducted from the same town. Those unable to escape captivity by the Boko Haram were married or sold off. They burned houses and forced residents to flee Kamtahi and Galtimari villages that evening. Borno State police interestingly enough were not aware of the incident as reported by the AP.
Last week, 50 people, mostly fishermen, were executed by Boko Haram in Doron Baga, along the shores of Lake Chad. The region has been hit the hardest by the five-year-old uprising. Nigerian officials have been considering extending their emergency rule in northeast Nigeria, which has been in place since May 2013.
Living in the United States, Paul now aspires to be a doctor. She is adapting and learning a new language and culture and is excited that she is not alone. Several of her Nigerian classmates from back home will be joining her thanks in part to Christian group, The Jubilee Campaign. The group raised funds so that all 57 girls who escaped captivity from the Boko Haram can finish school in the U.S. Paul is still sadden by the fact her sisters still remain captive of the Islamist radicals and prays for mercy for the men hurting them.
By Stevenson Benoit