Remember the Twitter campaign #BringBackOurGirls? It took the Internet by storm in April, propelled by leaders such as Michelle Obama and John Boehner, after the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram abducted 276 young women from a school.

The Nigerian government, which had done little to protect civilians in its northeastern provinces or to rescue those previously kidnapped, was shamed into accepting help from the United States and other countries in tracking down the girls, and it set up an internationally funded “safe schools initiative.”

Seven months later, however, nearly all the girls from the town of Chibok are still missing — and Boko Haram’s assaults on students, Christians and other non-Muslims continue. On Monday, a suicide bomber attacked a boarding school in another northern city, killing 48 boys and their teachers. At least 60 girls were kidnapped in two towns in Adamawa state last month.

Those attacks came after Nigeria’s top military official announced that a cease-fire had been reached with Boko Haram and another official said a deal to release the schoolgirls was in reach. Both announcements shortly preceded President Goodluck Jonathan’s announcement that he would run for re-election. Neither was true. On the contrary, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau declared in a video released Oct. 31: “Anybody that said plans are underway for the release of the girls is just daydreaming. … All of them have accepted Islam and are now married.”

A glimpse of the horror attached to those supposed conversions and marriages was provided by a Human Rights Watch report released last month. The group interviewed 30 women who had escaped after being captured by Boko Haram, including a dozen from the Chibok school. The report found that “the majority appeared to have been targeted for abduction because they were students, Christians, or both.” It said: “For refusing to convert to Islam, they and many others they saw in the camps were subjected to physical and psychological abuse; forced labor; forced participation in military operations, including carrying ammunition or luring men into ambush; forced marriage to their captors; and sexual abuse, including rape.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed a girl of 15 who had been handed to a fighter in his 30s as a “bride” and then repeatedly raped. Another had a noose placed around her neck and was threatened with decapitation when she refused to give up her religion. In all, the report said, Boko Haram has abducted at least 500 women and girls from northern Nigeria since 2009.

The movement, which claims to have established a caliphate in northern Nigeria, has much in common with the Islamic State. While a U.S.-led alliance of dozens of countries has gone to war to destroy the terrorist entity in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram faces only the weak and corrupt Nigerian army, which itself has engaged in massive human rights violations in the north. There are obstacles to greater U.S. engagement, including the government’s resistance and U.S. law preventing aid to units linked to human rights crimes. But the sense of urgency reflected in the spring’s Twitter campaign remains more than justified.

Editorial by The Washington Post

In this May 19 file photo, Martha Mark, the mother of kidnapped school girl Monica Mark cries as she displays her daughter's photo, in the family house, in Chibok, Nigeria. In a video released Oct. 31, Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Nigeria's Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, dashed hopes for a prisoner exchange to get the girls released. "The issue of the girls is long forgotten because I have long ago married them off," he said, laughing. (AP file photo)

In this May 19 file photo, Martha Mark, the mother of kidnapped school girl Monica Mark cries as she displays her daughter’s photo, in the family house, in Chibok, Nigeria. In a video released Oct. 31, Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Nigeria’s Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, dashed hopes for a prisoner exchange to get the girls released. “The issue of the girls is long forgotten because I have long ago married them off,” he said, laughing. (AP file photo)

 

 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.