Heidi Vogt: Boko Haram’s Abduction of Girls Still Grips Nigeria

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Boko Haram has abducted at least 2,000 women and girls since the start of 2014. Many have been forced into sexual slavery or trained to fight, says Amnesty International

YOLA, Nigeria— Heidi Vogt reports: In the year since Boko Haram militants kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls from their dormitories in northeastern Nigeria, the missing girls have come to symbolize an insurgency that doesn’t need a large footprint to terrorize a population.

Protests continue in the capital Abuja to urge the government to do more to free the more-than-200 girls. Each time a town has been retaken, local newspapers and radio stations ask the government if the girls were found there.

“This is about Chibok but it is also about what’s happening in northeast. It is about Boko Haram. It’s something that people can organize around.”

— Liz Donnelly, a London-based Nigeria analyst with the Chatham House policy institute

After the recapture of the key town of Gwoza in late March, the headline of the Nigerian website Pulse headlined its story: “No sign of Chibok girls as soldiers recover Gwoza from terrorists.”

In the past two months, Boko Haram has lost much of the territory it had seized. But what may be a more persistent threat remains—that of a hit-and-run organization that instills terror through mass abductions.

[Also see – Photos: Drawings by Child Victims of Boko Haram Attacks]

Boko Haram has abducted at least 2,000 women and girls since the start of 2014, Amnesty International said in a new report. Many have been forced into sexual slavery or trained to fight, the rights group said.

But the girls seized in the town of Chibok and publicized in the #bringbackourgirls Twitter campaignhave been the ones that caught the world’s attention and galvanized Nigerians.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

“This is about Chibok but it is also about what’s happening in northeast. It is about Boko Haram. It’s something that people can organize around,” said Liz Donnelly, a London-based Nigeria analyst with the Chatham House policy institute.

There have been rumors in recent weeks both that the girls have been killed and that they were spotted in Gwoza, but neither has been substantiated.

And there may be more kidnappings to come. Read the rest of this entry »


Turn On, Retweet, Tune Out

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From Syria to Gaza to #BringBackOurGirls, what makes people care about stories one minute — and forget about them the next?

Lauren_WolfeFor ForeignPolicy.comLauren Wolfe writes:

Deborah Sanya, an 18-year-old Nigerian student who was kidnapped by Boko Haram in the mass raid on a school in Chibok back in mid-April, took a tremendous risk and bolted. Through the night, she and two friends ran and ran, eventually reaching safety in a village. When New Yorker reporter Alexis Okeowo spoke to Sanyaat the end of April, she described how the young woman was fasting and eating, fasting and eating, all the while interspersing that with prayer.

“What exactly is going on in the attention economy that people have little room (or desire) for sustained empathy?”

At the time when Okeowo’s article came out, many in the world were riveted by the plight of the Nigerian schoolgirls: It was a story with terror and mystery and a need for world attention — immediately. The infamous #BringBackOurGirls campaign began online. People got mad. Op-eds appeared. World leaders indignantly spoke out.

Yet more than three months later, with most of the girls still in captivity, global cries to help them are intermittent at best. It’s hardly the first time a cause has hit the headlines, only to slide slowly into the shadows, like a cranky child quietly banished to her room after throwing a temper tantrum. Remember Kony 2012?

Right.

In addition to the big hits that live and die hard, there are countless issues people care about on and off at best. See: Syria; Israel-Palestine; a number of countries with intense war and suffering in Africa (the Central African Republic, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo); HIV/AIDS. Read the rest of this entry »


A Group of Nigerian Hunters Join the Search for Missing Schoolgirls


Boko Haram Demands Release of Fighters for Girls

In this  photo taken from video  by Nigeria's Boko Haram terrorist network, Monday May 12, 2014 shows the alleged missing girls abducted from the northeastern town of Chibok. The new video purports to show dozens of abducted schoolgirls, covered in jihab and praying in Arabic. It is the first public sight of the girls since more than 300 were kidnapped from a northeastern school the night of April 14  exactly four weeks ago. (AP Photo)

“I swear to almighty Allah, you will not see them again until you release our brothers that you have captured.

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Under the guns of their captors, dozens of barefoot girls sat huddled together wearing gray Muslim veils as they chanted Quranic verses in Arabic. Some Christians among them said they had converted to Islam.

“I swear to almighty Allah, you will not see them again until you release our brothers that you have captured,” the leader of the Boko Haram terrorist network threatened, an assault rifle slung across his chest.

A video released by the group Monday offered the first public glimpse of what it claimed were some of the nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped a month ago. The girls’ plight has spurred a global movement to secure their freedom.

It is not known how many suspected Boko Haram members are detained by security forces. Hundreds were killed last month when leader Abubakar Shekau‘s fighters stormed the military’s main northeastern barracks in Maiduguri, the terror group’s birthplace and the headquarters of a year-old military state of emergency to put down the 5-year-old Islamic uprising.

In the video, two of the girls were singled out for questioning.

“Why have you become a Muslim?” one girl, who looked to be in her early teens, was asked.

“The reason why I became a Muslim is because the path we are on is not the right path,” the girl said, nervously shifting her body from side to side, her eyes darting back and forth. Read the rest of this entry »