On the night of April 14, Boko Haram laid siege to the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria, killing several and abducting more than 270 schoolgirls. Shortly after the mass-abduction, a list compiled by community leaders and Nigerian security officials detailing the names, ages and religious affiliations of those taken revealed that more than 90% of those identified are professed Christians. Regrettably, more than 220 of those abducted remain unaccounted for, either languishing under the guard and keep of their Islamic militant captors, or suffering a lifetime of sexual and domestic servitude as child brides, in some cases sold into marriage for as little as $12. This Christmas, as you’re with friends and family, remember the more than 180 Christian schoolgirls, ages 13-18, sleeping under the watch of armed gunmen, or in the presence of an abusive husband forcing her to practice his religion, a radically harsh version of Islam.
12/18/2014 Nigeria (The New Yorker) – Comfort Ayuba, who is eighteen years old and has an open, eager face, remembers seeing a group of Boko Haram militants realize, one day this past April, that there was not enough space in their trucks for all the girls they wanted to kidnap from the boarding school that Ayuba attended, in northeastern Nigeria. They forced a Christian girl to lie flat on the ground and pointed a gun at her. Ayuba recalls hearing them ask her about her faith, which the girl insisted she would not give up. The men told her and two other girls to run away and not look back. Ayuba’s friend Rejoice Yaga is fourteen. “The first thing I saw when we reached their camp was a refrigerator under a tree,” Yaga told me. The group’s large supply of weapons and vehicles was kept in open sight.
Ayuba and Yaga managed to escape; they were the lucky ones. They live in a remote village called Jajel, which is situated amid scrubland and rock formations covered in golden weeds just outside the town of Chibok, where their former school was located before Boko Haram burned it down. Ten girls from Jajel were kidnapped in the Chibok school attack; all but one had escaped and returned home when I visited the village over the summer.
Counts vary, but it is widely estimated that forty-odd other girls have also escaped, which would leave more than two hundred girls still missing. As the year draws to a close, one thing has become clear: the girls are not coming back, at least not as a group. Every now and then, a girl might find an opportunity to run away, but Boko Haram has been kidnapping girls and young women for a long time; we know from those who have escaped (sometimes pregnant or with a small child) that they are often handed off to militants as sex slaves or forced to perform tasks for the terrorist group. A mass rescue is no longer a real possibility; it probably never was.
It is reasonable to wonder why the Nigerian government and military, despite help from the United States and the added motivation of an upcoming election to determine if the country’s President, Goodluck Jonathan, should get another term, have failed so miserably at retrieving the girls and protecting its own people. This fall, Boko Haram has been on a murderous tear, occupying much of northeastern Nigeria in its quest for a modern-day caliphate. In November alone, almost eight hundred people were killed in close to thirty attacks. The Nigerian military says that it has pushed Boko Haram out of some of its strongholds, but the terrorists still control at least a dozen towns.