Who Took Our Girls? Interview with two teens in Nigeria about missing girls

Almost exactly a year ago, the phrase “bring our girls back” began to make its way across the Internet after 274 teenage girls were kidnapped from the Government Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria.

First Lady Michelle Obama shows her support for the #bringbackourgirls movement. Taken from Michelle Obama's twitter account.
First Lady Michelle Obama shows her support for the #bringbackourgirls movement. Photo taken from Michelle Obama’s twitter account.

Teens throughout Nigeria were shocked by the kidnapping, making all of them feel more vulnerable. Students Sidhant Bendre and Chike Oniya from the British International School in Lagos were interviewed via Skype by this reporter to learn more about what it was like during this crisis and how young people are dealing with the threat of Boko Haram in the country.

British International School of Lagos Nigeria students Sidhant Bindre (left) and Chike Onyia (right). Photo credits to Lucy Arole
British International School of Lagos Nigeria students Sidhant Bindre (left) and Chike Onyia (right). Photo by Lucy Arole.

“After the kidnapping, the girls who stay in the dorms at BIS were moved to the teachers’ department to give them an extra layer of protection, but they left us boys to fend for ourselves!” Chike Oniya said.

Over 500 students ages 16-18 from multiple villages were staying at the Government Secondary School in Chibok last April to take the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination.Pretending to be guards, members of Boko Haram broke into the school and lured the girls out into trucks waiting outside the school. The girls were then taken to the Konduga Area of the Sabisa Forest, a place known for sheltering fortified Boko Haram camps.

Pretending to be guards, members of Boko Haram broke into the school and lured the girls out into trucks waiting outside the school. The girls were then taken to the Konduga Area of the Sabisa Forest, a place known for sheltering fortified Boko Haram camps.

The name “Boko Haram” means “Western Education is Forbidden.” The official name is actually Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’Awati Wal-Jihad, which translates to “People Committed to the Prophet’s Teachings for Propagation and Jihad.” Led by Abubakar Shekau, also known as Darul Tawheed (the abode of monotheism), Boko Haram is a self-professed militant Islamic Movement based in northeast Nigeria with additional activities across the borders of Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

Over the weeks following the kidnapping, the facts about the number of girls kidnapped kept changing. The original report claimed that 85 students had been kidnapped. However, the day after the abduction the Borno State government declared that 14 of the 129 missing girls had been released, while 115 remained in captivity. On April 16, the military claimed to have rescued 107 of 115 missing girls, leaving only eight girls in captivity. This claim was retracted two days later, after it was dismissed as false by the school principal. According to Musa Kolo, the Director of Personnel and Management in Chibok, 57 girls had escaped from the clutches of Boko Haram. Four of these girls estimated the number of girls still missing at 219.

Ni-map
Map of Nigeria from the CIA World Factbook (Public Domain)

 “We weren’t really sure what had happened exactly…the information we were given kept changing and the numbers kept changing. Who knows how many girls were actually taken?” said Chike Oniya, a journalism student in the British International School in Lagos, Nigeria. “But I don’t think they are coming back.”

Reports started coming in after the kidnapping that some of the girls still in captivity were forced to convert to Islam and then were married off to members of Boko Haram at “bride price” of 2000 Nigerian dollars, roughly $12.50 USD. The rest were reportedly smuggled over the border into Chad and Cameroon.

According to one of the four vocal escapees, the girls were raped every single day in these camps. The leader of Boko Haram claimed, “Allah instructed me to sell them…I carry out his instructions.”

Shekau was believed to be dead in 2009. However, in a video released in 2010 the world discovered he was in fact still alive and claimed leadership of Boko Haram. Since then Boko Haram has been claiming recognition for various attacks in the Nigerian areas through videos. These videos often contain anti-American propaganda as well as threats towards America. As a result the US State Department has a $7 million reward for information leading to his capture, the Nigerian Government has offered 20 million Nigerian dollars ($300,000 USD). In a video released in May 2014, Shekau declared, “Slavery is allowed in my religion, and I shall capture people and make them slaves.”

In response to the quote, BIS student Sidhant Bendre said, “I may not be Muslim, but I’m pretty sure that Allah is supposed to be a benevolent god… kind and cares for his people. I doubt a God like that would be okay with enslaving and forcing young girls into religions against their will.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 8.11.04 pmIn 2014 the world saw a sudden increase in Boko Haram activity. In 2014 alone they were responsible for 4000 deaths.

Boko Haram has kept its activities towards the northern areas of Nigeria, sticking to the more rural parts of the country. However, they often target the capital city Abuja, which lies in the northern region of Nigeria. Bendre, a student of the British International School in Lagos, Nigeria, spoke of the time when he used to live in Abuja.

“We used to get bomb scares a lot. Sometimes we would just stay inside, because someone had told us Boko Haram might be bombing them. We were a bit scared, but it was worse for the people in the rural areas where Boko Haram really was. Eventually it just became a part of our lives,” Bendre said.

Last week, the former President of Nigeria – Goodluck Jonathan – lost to his opponent Muhammadu Buhari, who has said that he is the man to deal with Boko Haram. Perhaps now Nigeria’s future can be brighter, and the Internet will no longer be flooded with signs to #Bring back our girls NOW.

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Author: Mallari Batlaw

Mallari Batlaw is a senior and a new member of The Eye staff this year. She is the co-editor of the Arts and Entertainment section of the Eye. Although she has been at SAS for eight years, this is her first year on The Eye. She usually spends her time between eating, rock climbing, doing Insanity and stressing out about the college application process. She can be contacted at batlaw33374@sas.edu.sg.

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