After Boko Haram held them captive for more than three years, 82 Chibok schoolgirls were released in exchange for five of the Islamic group’s commanders. With aid from Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross, the girls were freed and flown to Abuja to reunite with their families and meet with President Buhari. Nothing else has been released about the negotiations concerning the exchange.
Boko Haram is a militant group responsible for killing and displacing over 2 million citizens in an effort to create an Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria. In April of 2014, the group shocked the world by abducting 270 schoolgirls from a boarding school in Chibok. Recently, 82 of those girls were liberated in exchange for the Boko Haram officers. The first 21 of the freed Chibok girls are currently in government care for medical treatment and trauma rehabilitation. Although the girls are receiving medical attention, many human rights activists criticize the decision to keep the young women under custody in Abuja instead of immediately releasing them to their families. It is uncertain if the rest of the girls will join the first group.
Although the release of the young women is celebratory news, 113 girls remain missing. Many of the girls who escaped the initial melee recounted the fates of those left behind; some of the victims died of illness while others who were radicalized by the militant group refused to return back home. Many human rights activists believe that some of the kidnapped girls were forced into suicide bomb missions. “They will face a long and difficult process to rebuild their lives after the indescribable horror and trauma they have suffered at the hands of Boko Haram,” said Pernille Ironside, acting representative of UNICEF Nigeria.
Although the Islamic group kidnapped thousands of citizens during their 8 year insurgency, the mass abduction of the schoolgirls brought Boko Haram to international attention. The former neglectance of the case brought forth “Bring Back Our Girls”, a campaign devoted to freeing the remaining 113 girls. The campaign has gained many influential supporters, like former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama. “We urge the President and his government to earnestly pursue the release of all our Chibok girls and other abducted citizens of Nigeria,” the group said in a statement.
President Buhari announced that the Boko Haram terrorist movement is “crushed”, but the militant group continues to ruthlessly attack northern Nigeria and other neighboring countries. The Islamic group has killed over 20,000 citizens and has separated 2.6 million families, many of which suffer from starvation. The horrors of Boko Haram still exist; their radical demonstrations still affecting Nigeria and those living outside the country.
By Kendall Onley ’19