Nigerian schoolgirl kidnapping finally gets attention – 2 weeks later

Muslim girls attend a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the 276 missing kidnapped school girls of a government secondary school Chibok, in Lagos, Nigeria.

The abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in northeast Nigeria is increasingly on the radar of mainstream news. That is thanks in large part to the fact that the issue is yet to be resolved, the families are protesting about the problem and activists took to social media to declare #BringBackOurGirls.

There are concerns and criticisms about the way that the story is now being covered. Attention about the situation increased when AFP reported that the girls were being sold to Islamist militants for as little as $12.

Journalist Karen Attiah pointed out the problems with outlets staying that the girls were sold as child brides. She says that trafficking is a more apt term and argues further that the use of words like slavery and trafficking would have a greater impact on the reporting and how the global public might react to learning about the problem.

“While the language we use to talk about these girls must do the utmost the horror of their plight, but that in our eagerness to “say something” we do not marginalize them further,” writes Attiah.

As was long suspected, Boko Haram, the Islamic militant group that has launched attacks in the northeast of Nigeria, claimed responsibility for the abductions on Monday. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau admitted that the group was responsible, in a video obtained by AFP.

“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” said Sheaku in the video.

The families of the girls have criticized the Nigerian government for its lack of action and inability to bring them back home. Protests took place over the past week around the world, from Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja to Washington DC.

One of the protest leaders, Naomi Mutah Nyadar, was recently arrested by Nigerian authorities. They accused her of faking the abduction of her daughter. Fellow protesters disagreed with the action, citing that the point of the campaign is about all the girls.

“They are claiming it is a hoax and that her daughter was not abducted. But when we say ‘bring back our daughters’ the campaign means it in the broader sense of ‘daughters of Nigeria’,” said fellow protester Lawan Abana to Reuters. “They are so clueless.”

The Nigerian government has begun to ask for international help. President Goodluck Jonathan said he reached out to leaders from the US, UK and China for assistance on the security problem posed by Boko Haram. The Nigerian military has largely contained the attacks to one part of the country, but have been accused of human rights violations, by human rights observers.

New York Times OpEd columnist Nick Kristof spoke with US Secretary of State John Kerry about the situation. He asked Kerry if he and the US are ‘nudging’ Nigeria on the issue.

“We’re really pushing them … about the situation with the girls,” Kerry said. “Oh, God! Yes, absolutely.” He described it as “not just an act of terrorism. It’s a massive human trafficking moment and grotesque.”

While more attention is raised outside of Nigeria, there is yet to be a resolution. Nearly 300 girls remain missing in Nigeria.

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Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.