Last Thursday, Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram released twenty-one Chibok school girls after negotiations with the Nigerian government, the International Red Cross, and the Swiss government.
In 2014, Boko Haram abducted over 270 schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria. About sixty girls escaped immediately. The kidnapping spurred a global reaction. Renowned figures such as Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai and United States first lady Michelle Obama condemned the kidnapping. International backlash prompted the #BringBackOurGirls movement in 2014. However, after two years, the movement died out due to lack of media coverage.
After an appeal from Nigerian authorities, the Swiss government acted as a mediator between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram contacts. There are discrepancies between the statements regarding the means of the girls’ release. The Nigerian government denies exchanging detained Boko Haram soldiers for the girls, but two military officers asserted that four Boko Haram fighters were released as a part of the negotiations.
Following the girls’ release, they were taken to doctors and psychologists in the capital to receive medical attention as well as emaciation and trauma counselling. The girls were finally reunited with their parents during a ceremony on Sunday, 16th October. The celebration, however, has been bittersweet. Almost 200 hundred girls are still missing. Several parents were dismayed to find out that their daughters were not part of the twenty-one released, and over fourteen parents have died since the abduction.
However, reports from Nigerian authorities provide hope for the parents of the other missing girls. Despite Boko Haram’s association with ISIS, the group has been significantly more cooperative in making deals. Negotiations for the remaining girls recommenced on Monday. Nigeria’s Information Minister, Lai Mohammed announced that “already we are on phase two and we are already in discussions,” and called the release “the first step” towards reclaiming the freedom of all the missing girls.