Five months ago the Boko Haram Islamic terrorist group raided the north-eastern Nigerian town of Chibok, kidnapping 276 schoolgirls from their secondary school. Some of the girls escaped, but 219 are still missing. The event exploded onto the global media, sparking international outrage, but not one of the kidnapped girls has been rescued.
Despite the huge international response, with Nigeria receiving military assistance from the US, UK, Canada, France and Israel, and the international community showing support through the #Bringbackourgirls campaign, interest over the girls’ fates has waned.
The US scaled back its mission, just six weeks after its 80 troops were sent in, with the Pentagon press secretary announcing , "We don't have any better idea today than we did before about where these girls are.” Even the Nigerian military has pulled back, complaining about a lack of resources and weapons, despite knowing where the girls are being held. They are resisting a rescue mission, stating the girls’ lives as the reason.
The girls are believed to be held by different groups in several areas, with most still believed to be held in the Sambisa Forest. A video filmed by the Boko Haram shows two girls talking about their forced conversion from Christianity to Islam.
One attempt has been made to secure some of the girls’ safe return but was hijacked by a second rebel group. After months of negotiating with the Boko Haram a man from Perth, Stephen Davis, came close to rescuing at least 60 of the schoolgirls. He had been a captive of the terror group, and was asked by the Nigeria president to use his hostage negotiation expertise to help save the girls. The operation, just minutes from completion, was intercepted by another rebel group wishing to claim the monetary reward for the girls’ return.
Since April when the girls were kidnapped, Boko Haram has taken three other smaller groups of girls, as well as some young men and boys, though some have been rescued.
The Council on Foreign Relations in Washington has collated data which suggests that Boko Haram has killed over 2100 people since April. The militant group has been blamed for murdering more than 10,000 people since 2009.
The group, which seeks to impose Sharia law across Nigeria, and is threatening global domination, has cut off the girls’ hometown, Chibok, and have been laying siege to the nearby villages.
The Boko Haram has mocked the #Bringbackourgirls campaign, and its leader, Abubakar Shekau, has declared the girls will be sold into slavery, or married off to men of Boko Haram, if the government does not release members of the terrorist group from prison.
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With the world’s attention focused the devastating actions of ISIS and the escalating situation in Iraq, Australians are being forced into a state of panic about terrorist attacks on our home soil.
Australians are lucky. In the past we have not had to seriously concern ourselves with invasions and terrorist attacks. Our country is surrounded by massive ocean, cushioning us from what is really happening to other people in our global community.
Nigerian human rights lawyer, Emmanuel Ogebe has said that global concern over the schoolgirls’ rescue has died down, largely because international aid as dwindled, and there are no human-rights workers remaining in the region. The global media has also stopped its reporting of the matter.
We are a culture poised for hot-button topics. While the #Bringbackourgirls campaign indicated our horror that 276 innocent girls could be snatched away from their families, we seem to have forgotten that the ones we called ‘our girls’ are still out there.
Certainly the message that we must fear foreign terror has never before been sent so clearly to us, with ASIO officially raising our terrorism threat level to high and our prime minister sending our men and women into something which might be (but according to him, isn’t) war.
Perhaps as individuals we can’t do much to help on a global level, but I think the least we can do is keep important issues, such as the missing Nigerian girls, in our minds and our conversations with others. We’ve got to keep caring about the things happening to others, as well as what could happen to ourselves.
What are your thoughts? Are we too safe in this lovely sunburnt country of ours? Have we forgotten how fortunate we are to live in a community where our daily lives are not directly under threat by groups who want to threaten our freedom and make us conform to their will?
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