#BringBackOurGirls: The Hashtag that is Mobilizing the World

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“They will be treated like slaves” announced the Boko Haram militants after the abduction of the Nigerian girls that are creating an international movement, ‘And as slaves, they will be sold to the market in the name of Allah.” At this point they could be in Chad, Cameroon, or the other side of the world. We do not know anything about the approximately 200 Nigerian students abducted on April 14 in the northeastern part of Nigeria, an area under control of the jihadist group Boko Haram.

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Many offers of aid have been made, from the UK to France, from China to the United States. Meanwhile, the hashtag “Give us back our girls” launched on Twitter by the young pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, is attracting international support , including that of the U.S. First Lady, Michelle Obama and many Hollywood stars . Expressions of solidarity are taking place on all continents of the world, where protesters from different countries have called for the immediate release of the girls. However, this is not the first serious incident of violence in Nigeria; according to a report made by Human Rights Watch in December 2013, over a thousand people have lost their lives to the unrest that has taken over the country.
Amnesty International has begun a campaign that everyone can sign by clicking this link: http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=6oJCLQPAJiJUG&b=6645049&aid=520844&msource=W1405OACPR1. The NGO has accused the Nigerian government of ignoring the warnings they received before the kidnapping of the girls, who were taken away from a school of Chibok, in the state of Borno. “Some evidence of a conviction, gathered by Amnesty International, revealed that the Nigerian security forces have not acted in the face of warnings about the possible raid by Boko Haram” said the human rights group. According to Amnesty, the Nigerian Army Headquarters in Maiduguri was informed of the attack shortly after seven o’clock in the morning of April 14, “nearly four hours before the Boko Haram would start to attack the city.” Apparently, the military was not able to put together the battalion that was needed to counter the attack, “because of the limited resources available and the fear of fighting against opponents that are often better equipped.”
The 17 soldiers who were present in Chibok at the time of the attack had to withdraw and leave the field open to the militants. “The fact that the security forces, knowing about the impending raid and having four hours of time to prepare, did not take immediate steps to stop it, will only increase the national and international outrage at the horrible crime in progress”said Netsanet Belat, Amnesty International’s director for Africa.
In Nigeria, a group of American experts arrived to help local authorities alleviate some of the suffering and attempt to recover the kidnapped girls. The composition is not yet known, but some officials in Washington had previously spoken of military personnel and specialists of the Justice Department and the FBI. Speaking at the World Economic Forum which is being held in the Nigerian capital Abuja, President Goodluck Jonathan has reiterated that his country “is totally committed to bring these girls home,” even if the government’s response has been initially criticized for many days and the president himself has avoided confronting the topic.
This week Boko Haram has released a new video that portrays the kidnapped girls. In the short film, of 17 minutes, the Islamist leader Abubakar Shekau says that the students have converted to Islam and has threatened that they will not be freed until all the members of Boko Haram in Nigerian prisons are released.
In the video, one can see about 130 girls dressed in hijabs and long dark robes while they pray near the tree reciting the first chapter of the Koran. Three of them are interviewed, two of them claim to have converted from Christianity to Islam while a third says that she was already a Muslim. All appear calm and do not claim to have been treated badly.

Erika Sciarra

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