It's Been Two Years, So Why Haven't We Been Able to #BringBackOurGirls?
By Shay Maunz
Thursday marked the second anniversary of the night that 276 schoolgirls were abducted from their school in Chibok, Nigeria. The abductors: Boko Haram, a militant group that pledges allegiance to ISIS. The group has been devastating Nigeria for years, and schools are a favorite target. Loosely translated, Boko Haram means "Western education is forbidden."
The kidnapping caused an international outcry. Within weeks, more than a million people had called on world leaders to #BringBackOurGirls, and luminaries like Michelle Obama and Malala Yousafzai had gotten involved. International leaders pledged to help. The then-president of Nigeria, who didn’t even acknowledge the missing girls for two weeks, eventually promised to find them.
But two years later, the girls still aren’t back, aside from a few dozen who escaped on their own early on. That's 219 girls who are still missing. So, two years later, what do we know about the lost girls and Boko Haram?
The lost girls may not be any closer to being found.
On Wednesday, CNN obtained a “proof of life” video that was sent to negotiators by their captors. It shows 15 of the captured girls and implies that more of the girls are alive as well; it appears to have been filmed on Christmas Day 2015.
But leaders still don’t seem to be any closer to rescuing them, and many advocates worry that the effort has lost momentum. The girls are thought to have been separated into several groups, forced to marry militants, or used as fighters.
Boko Haram’s cruelty extends far beyond the Chibok schoolgirls.
Just months after the Chibok attack, some 400 people were abducted in the remote fishing town of Damasak, though that attack got far less attention than the one in Chabak. Those people, many of them children, are also still missing.
And in the last two years, at least 1.3 million children have been uprooted by Boko Haram violence, according to a UNICEF report. More than 5,000 children have been separated from their parents. Some 1,800 schools have been closed, either because they’ve been damaged, looted, burned down, or filled with displaced people in need of shelter.
UNICEF also found that Boko Haram is increasingly using children to act as “suicide bombers.” That is, strapping bombs to their bodies, against their will or without their knowledge, and forcing them to carry out deadly attacks. Last year, 44 children were sent by Boko Haram to detonate bombs in crowded places like mosques or markets; three quarters of them were girls. This has devastating consequences for children who survive captivity by Boko Haram. Even after returning home, they're often viewed with fear and suspicion by friends, family, and neighbors.
The #BringBackOurGirls movement isn't giving up.
Even as more and more time goes on without any good news on the schoolgirls, the leaders of the movement have continued to speak out about the importance of searching for them and ensuring that all of Nigeria’s schoolchildren are safe.
Every day at 5 P.M. in downtown Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, some two dozen people gather near the Unity Fountain to act as a visible presence for the movement, according to Voice of America. One of the supporters explained why they still gather, even after all the TV cameras left: “I am here because the Chibok girls are children of the poor, the children who are voiceless in this country and they need somebody to speak out for them,” he said.
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