WASHINGTON, May 12, 2014 — Exhausted after studying heavily for weeks for an upcoming school wide test the next Monday morning April 14th, 200 young women and girls, all students fell asleep quickly on Sunday night. Like young women and girls all over the world, the students had many things on their young minds; the upcoming test, their friends and family and what they would do after finishing school and how their young lives would be changed after getting an education.
The young students woke to the clashing sounds of glass breaking, loud voices yelling and the smell of smoke. Strange screaming men broke into their school, forced the girls from their beds, and ordered them into waiting trucks. The trucks drove away from the safety and warm beds of the familiar school into the dark forest with the terrified 243 young women and girls. Wrenching the young students forever from their innocent lives and thrusting them into horror filled days and nights.
The abductors, members of the terrorist network Boko Haram, threatened to sell these girls on the open market. The definition of human trafficking speaks of exploitation, coercion, and violence.
A few students managed to escape their captors during the initial assault, and approximately 43 students somehow managed to jump from the trucks. Some escaped to the nearby woods, slowly making their way home after days of tortuous travel through the deep jungle.
One of the abductees who managed to escape the madmen recently reported that some of the students are forced to have sex with their captors up to 15 times in a day. Others were chosen as gifts to leaders of Boko Haram because they were virgins.
Families of the abducted students are certain their daughters are now being used as sex slaves by the group Boko Haram who has killed 1,500 people since the start of this year alone.
The world’s media and international governments ignored the story for weeks. The kidnappings were mentioned briefly for the first time on American nightly news on May 1st, more than two weeks after the young students were abducted.
The group is likely holding the girls hostage in the Sambisa Forest, where the group maintains an armed camp.
Boko Haram has been terrorizing Nigeria for years, capitalizing on divisions between the Muslim north and the Christian south. They have attacked Nigerian villages, caused mass explosions at bus stations, and murdered young boys at school. However this attack and abduction of young female students is the largest attack so far.
These young women and girls were studying for a test one minute, then fighting off horrific rapes and for their lives the next.
The lack of immediate international outrage over the act appears tied to the fact that the girls are from poor families. If the attackers had taken students from a wealthy boarding school, attention likely would have been swift, following by action.
Mma Odi, Executive Director of the Nigerian Charity Baobab Women’s Human Rights, stated, “It is a very bad situation for those girls. The men went to the school for no other reason than to make them their sex objects. The men will have reduced them to sex slaves, raping them over and over again. And any girl who tries to resist will be shot by them. The men have no conscience. The conditions will be terrible and it seems like the government has just abandoned them because they are girls and they are poor. If they were the sons of the rich, the government would act.”
Because they were female young and of color, it seems these young students were expendable. How could this indescribable act have been avoided? How can these young students ever be saved?
Or is it too late? Will their sad story serve only as a lesson and a reminder that all girls must be viewed as important, and education should be available for all students no matter their race, gender or economic situation?
All girls should be kept safe. Regardless of race, color, nationality or economic background, each is important, and each deserves safety.