[AP Photo/ Haruna Umar]
Two weeks ago, more than two hundred girls were kidnapped at gunpoint in the dead of night as they slept in their school dormitories. A few escaped - almost 50 - and, as the days roll by, the parents of 187 teenage girls are pleading for their safe return.
Now, women and girls’ rights campaigner, Malala Yousafzai has urged the Nigerian government to ‘take action’ against the terrorist group, Boko Haram, holding them captive in Chibok.
She told BBC Radio 4: ‘When I heard the news, I was so sad, because it’s totally violent, it’s horrible. I’m feeling very sad for those girls, I don’t know what condition they will be in.
‘The international community should think about these girls because this is a part of our community and if we forget these girls, it’s like we’re forgetting our own sisters, our own people.’
She added: ‘I want to make a request to the government of Nigeria that they should take it [the education of girls] seriously, that they should take action, because in the end we will lose a whole generation.’
Her appeal comes alongside a pledge by Nigerian women who are to hold a Million Woman march in the country’s capital, Abuja, next week in hope of securing the girls’ release.
The march has been named “Free Our Girls” and is thought to be taking place later this week, when women throughout the country will show solidarity by wearing red. Professor Hauwa Abdu Biu, who has organised the march, told Vanguard, “The last time we were in black, but this time around the colour for the Abuja rally is red, so we should all be prepared and mobilize ourselves for the rally.”
Frighteningly, rumours are rife that the girls have been taken to neighbouring Cameroon and Chad and married to Boko Haram members. The jihadist group - whose name translates to “western education is a sin” - has been waging a five year war against the Nigerian government, which was declared in a state of emergency last year. Since January, almost 1800 people have been killed in the uprising - their bloodiest four months to date by far.
Girls who have escaped so far have done so by jumping off the trucks transporting them to the Sambisa forest, a well-known hideout for Boko Haram members, or running away once there. Some who have returned told harrowing stories about their captors “shooting and killing people” in villages on their way into the forest, and “burning their houses”.
For the parents of those who are still waiting for news, hope is all they have. The Nigerian government have shown a lack of effort in getting their girls back to safety, and have refused to comment thus far. Parents have been left to pool resources to buy fuel for motorbikes, and stage unofficial searches themselves.
In the wake of CNN’s broadcasting of terrorist group Boko Haram’s video – in which they claim responsibility for the abduction – support has started to pour in from around the world in a bid to raise awareness for the victims. As the girls’ ordeal enters its third week, their names have been released in a conclusive list by a local Christian society, ensuring that they are recognised by the world, not as a number, but as individual women – women who have had their rights brutally taken from them. Public figureheads and celebrities have been lending their voices to the cause via social media using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, which has been trending on Twitter all week.
Take a look at who’s been getting involved…
1. Michelle Obama
2. Malala Yousafzai
3. Alicia Keys
4. Cara Delevigne
5. Alexa Chung
6. Ellen DeGeneres
7. Amy Poehler
Words: Zoe Beaty and Charlotte Cresswell