The Mass Kidnapping of Nigerian Schoolgirls

On April 14, 2014, almost 300 Nigerian girls were kidnapped. Some information on their kidnapping is a bit murky because of false and bad reporting, but the following is what is known as of now.

The Kidnapping

Several weeks ago, an extremist militant Islamic group called the Boko Haram bombed Nigeria’s capital Abuja, and in a separate attack, killed 59 schoolboys. Because of the bombings and school killings, several schools were shut down, but one school was reopened so that the female students could complete their exams. The girls (16-18 years old) spent the night at the school, and the Boko Haram, dressed as military, woke the girls up in the middle night. The girls first believed that the Boko Haram were Nigerian soldiers and that they were being taken to safety, but the terrorist group reportedly started shouting that they were the Boko Haram, that they were going to burn down their school and that the girls had to get into their (the Boko Haram’s) vehicles.

An estimated 276 girls were kidnapped, though education officials initially claimed that 85 had been kidnapped and that 28 of the girls had escaped whilst the government simultaneously claimed that all but 8 of the girls had been rescued. To be clear, none of the girls have been rescued, and only 53 have managed to escape by jumping out of the Boko Haram’s moving vehicles or by immediately running away once they reached the terrorists’ base camp. It is rumored that the Boko Haram have kidnapped several other girls after their first mass kidnapping.

Boko Haram’s Demands

At first, the Boko Haram told the government that they were going to sell the girls to human traffickers, but they later stated that they would exchange the girls for their imprisoned brethren in southern Nigeria. 100 of the kidnapped girls (in hijabs) appeared in the Boko Haram’s negotiation tape. It is possible, but not known, that some of the girls have already been sold off into slavery or have been married to the Boko Haram.

Nigerian Government’s Response

The Nigerian government has a history of ineffectiveness in handling the Boko Haram, and this case has been no different as the government has put very little effort into rescuing the girls. The parents have been understandably outraged by their government’s lack of action, and they (the parents) and other Nigerians have taken to the streets to protest the government’s ineffectiveness. The first lady of Nigeria reportedly had some of the leaders of the protest arrested and accused the leaders as being part of the Boko Haram and of fabricating the girls kidnapping to make her and her husband look bad.

In recent weeks, the government reported that they have found the Boko Haram camp, but that they will not immediately approach because they are afraid the girls will be harmed, and they refuse to negotiate with terrorists.

International Activism

International attention was brought to this mass kidnapping and lack of action through online social activism on Twitter with the hashtag #bringbackourgirls. As news of the missing Nigerian girls grew, international pressure was put on the Nigerian government to find the girls. The Nigerian government seemingly did nothing to help find the girls so foreign nations eventually stepped in and sent soldiers to aid in the search. Nigerian hunters also joined the search for they believed that they were the girls’ best hope of being rescued since they knew the layout of the land. So far the girls have not been found.