A few months ago, social media was buzzing with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. Meant to raise awareness of the tragic situation in Nigeria where over 200 young girls were kidnapped by an Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram, #BringBackOurGirls garnered international attention. The New York Times reported in May:
That was April 15 in northern Nigeria. The girls were kidnapped by an extremist Muslim group called Boko Haram, whose name in the Hausa language means “Western education is a sin.”
These girls, ages 15 to 18 and Christians and Muslims alike, knew the risks of seeking an education, and schools in the area had closed in March for fear of terror attacks. But this school had reopened so that the girls — the stars of their families and villages — could take their final exams. They were expected to move on to become teachers, doctors, lawyers.
Instead, they reportedly are being auctioned off for $12 each to become “wives” of militants. About 50 girls escaped, but the police say that 276 are still missing — and the Nigerian government has done next to nothing to recover the girls.
People took to Twitter with the hashtag “#BringBackOurGirls, the first lady joined in and then nothing happened. Months later and still… nothing.
This video report is from July 7:
About a month ago, former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, made a statement that was about as effective as the hashtag. The Ottawa Citizen reported:
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in his role as a UN global ambassador, tried to keep up hope for the girls’ return on the bleak anniversary, but his words had a hollow ring.
“The world has not forgotten these girls. Not in a 100 days. Not for one day,” Brown wrote.
Yes it has. The universal outrage that greeted the abduction, and the massive effort to mobilize the global community to confront the terrorists and rescue the girls, has dissipated. Western governments talked tough, promised big, but in the end, did precious little to help save the girls.
A world-wide Bring Back Our Girls campaign led by politicians, religious leaders and celebrities swept across continents and energized people. There was hope, but it was only fleeting. Once the sad faces that tugged at our heartstrings disappeared from our TV screens, the outrage faded, and governments moved on to the next crisis in the headlines, promises forgotten. People returned to their busy lives, and the Bring Back Our Girls campaign fizzled.
What is clear though, is that by all accounts, the Nigerian government is either unwilling or ill equipped to handle Boko Haram. Likely both. Nigerians protested, demanded the government intervene and mount a rescue effort to retrieve the missing girls, but their pleas fell on deaf ears.
Earlier this month, US intelligence spotted what appeared to be groups of the missing girls.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who faces re-election in February, is under political pressure to secure the girls’ release, with some people urging him to agree to a prisoner swap.
His government has ruled out a rescue operation, saying it is unwilling to risk the girls’ lives, or a prisoner swap.
“We don’t exchange innocent people for criminals. That is not in the cards,” said Mr. Jonathan’s spokesman, Reuben Abati, last week in an interview.
While the Nigerian government doesn’t seem to be actively pursuing the girls, several intermediaries have attempted negotiations. Reportedly, the negotiations where neither encouraged nor discouraged by Nigerian officials. According to one intermediary, and contradictory to earlier reports, the girls are being treated as special prisoners and are unharmed.
In a statement by the Defence spokesman, Major General Chris Olukolade, insisted that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country remained intact.
“The claim is empty. The sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Nigerian state is still intact. Any group of terrorists laying claim to any portion of the country will not be allowed to get away with that expression of delusion and crime.
“Appropriate military operations to secure that area from the activities of the bandits are still ongoing,” the statement read.
While the world may have forgotten and the hashtag is no longer trending, our thoughts and prayers remain with the captured girls whose fate remains uncertain.
Follow Kemberlee Kaye on TwitterDONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.