The hashtag ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ has been trending in social media platforms for over recent months. The campaign, supported originally by Amnesty International, has been propelled into the public sphere by high profile tweets, and there have been calls for increased efforts to find and further protect the 270 plus school girls who were kidnapped by the jihadist group Boko Haram from a school in Chibok, North-Eastern Nigeria, on the 14th April.
Translating as ‘Western Education is Forbidden’, Boko Haram is a Nigerian, Islamist terrorist group which was founded in 2002. The group was created by leader Abubakar Shekau with the intention to overthrow the Nigerian government and create an Islamist state. Since 2009, the group has launched violent attacks against the military and civilians alike, while especially targeting school children.
The kidnap of over 200 girls came weeks after the group laid claim to two bombings of bus terminals in the same region, which was declared to be in a state of emergency in May of last year.
The whereabouts of the school girls are unknown. A video was released by the terrorist group to a French news channel which showed some of the girls, whom experts presume are stationed in the vast Sambisa forest on the border of Cameroon. In the video three of the captives spoke to the camera to confirm they had now converted to Islam, and leader Shekau stated that the girls would be held until all imprisoned members of Boko Haram had been released by the Nigerian government.
In previous altercations with Boko Haram, the Nigerian government have successfully negotiated to release prisoners, though it cost them around £2 million. Since the kidnapping there has been a backlash within Nigeria and from international activist organisations, condemning what they believe to be ‘minimal’ efforts on the part of the state to rescue the girls. Locals report that there is a distinct lack of trust from civilians regarding the poorly equipped and trained military, due to years of human rights abuse within the country. Moreover, Amnesty International reported that Nigerian security forces failed to act on advanced warnings about Boko Haram’s raid, which saw the 200 girls kidnapped.
Nigeria’s president Jonathan Goodluck met with French, British and American leaders in Paris on the 17th May to discuss the situation. The countries, along with neighboring states, have counter-terrorism units on the ground in Nigeria, yet a clear plan of action was not established from the conference. Though Goodluck says he is ‘optimistic’ about a successful outcome, senior diplomatic figures such as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have expressed their concerns regarding the heightened intervention from the West, suggesting it may rile Boko Haram and further exacerbate their cause against Western society.
The UN Security Council have now officially deemed Boko Haram as an organization linked to Al-Qaeda, having received reports that its members were trained by the terrorist group and fought alongside them in Mali. Due to this information, the UN has taken measures to set up an arms embargo, which they hope will ‘close off important avenues of funding’ to the organisation.
Residents of Nigeria’s North-Eastern region now live in constant fear of further attack by the Islamist group. Another 100 people were killed in a week following twin bombings in the city of Jos. Meanwhile, having been missing for almost two months, concern for the school girls is increasing by the day, and pressure is mounting on Goodluck’s government to take effective action soon.