Nearly 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria have been missing for over a week after armed militants broke into their dormitory and kidnapped them, according to officials in the country. The kidnapping, which is believed to be just one more violent action from an Islamist militant group known as Boko Haram, is allegedly related to the group’s desire to enforce stricter adherence to sharia law.
According to CNN, the militant faction has kidnapped the girls, 129 science students and 105 art students, and military are refusing to actively participate in seeking their return because female victims of such kidnappings are “rarely killed.” Sadly, the kidnappings have become commonplace to an area of the country that has become increasingly volatile as a result of attacks by Boko Haram.
“The spate of kidnappings began in May 2013 when Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau announced in a video that this was part of its latest bloody campaign,” reports CNN. “The kidnappings, he said, were retaliation for Nigerian security forces nabbing the wives and children of group members. Those kidnapped, he said, would begin a new life as a ‘servant.’”
USA Today reports that the kidnapping of young girls is especially meant as a means of terrorizing them out of seeking education, which Boko Haram opposes. “Boko Haram opposes the education of girls, and it has kidnapped girls in the past to use as cooks and sex slaves,” writes Oren Dorell. “Its earlier gun and bombing attacks on schools have killed hundreds of children.” Boko Haram translates to “Western education is sinful.”
Sadly, young women and girls often bear the brunt of attacks when militant Islamic groups trying to enforce sharia law force their will upon the community. Malala Yousafzai was gunned down for advocating for education for young women in her region, despite the opposition of the Taliban. Acid attacks on Afghani school girls used to be a commonplace tactic for frightening others into staying home rather than seek out an education.
Even those girls and young women who did manage to attend schools in strict Islamic societies feel the brunt of the culture, with their own educations becoming fraught with unnecessary danger due to commonplace rules enforced by sharia law. In February, gender segregation issues at King Saud University are believed to have inhibited a life or death situation on the campus, which may have contributed to the death of a student. The incident reminded many of a 2002 situation where a campus fire killed over a dozen female students because they were not allowed to leave the building without proper modest head coverings.
In Nigeria, where the 190 students still missing have been gone for over a week, many parents are finding it impossible to trust the government, who first gave inaccurate details regarding how many students were actually kidnapped, then followed that up with a statement claiming most of those who had been abducted had been released — a statement they soon retracted. While military continues to suss out exactly how they will search for and return the missing girls, violence continues to explode throughout the region, and only appears to be increasing.
Meanwhile, parents and townspeople have taken over the search for the missing girls, all of whom are between the ages of 16 and 18 years old. Although about 40 were able to escape and make it home, that still left around 190 unaccounted for. Parents are unsurprisingly desperate to see their children returned. “I have not seen my dear daughter, she is a good girl,” Musa Muka, whose 17-year-old daughter, Martha, was taken away, told The Guardian. “We plead with the government to help rescue her and her friends. We pray nothing happens to her.”
Hopefully those prayers will be answered for her, and for all of her missing companions.
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