May I have your attention, please?
If I told you that 200 girls were kidnapped from their school by a bunch of terrorists and the terrorists were now threatening to kill all of them how would you react?
Would you wonder if there’s yet another installment of Taken due this summer?
Would you think it was some other movie plot?
Would you even believe it’s happening?
Would you think I was making it up?
Those are rhetorical questions. The event is happening, in Nigeria, part of the long-running conflict between that nation and its local terrorist group Boko Haram. 230 girls were abducted on April 14th, just as they were to sit for their final exams.
Nigeria has claimed it's rescued them, but they haven't. Families are stating the Nigerian government is doing painfully little to find the missing girls. The terrorist group is now threatening to murder all of their captives.
One wouldn’t know it watching American media. You’d think Fox News would be all over the story, as Boko Haram are an Islamist group opposed to western education. It is, in fact, what their name translates from Hausa into English as, and we all know what Fox News thinks of Muslims of any type. However, I suppose Clive Bundy’s musky racist moocher welfare-queen balls are a lot more fun to play with. CNN is still looking for a plane even when the vast majority of global media has moved on from that story (because seriously, there is absolutely no more story there until the wreckage is found!) and MSNBC is, well, MSNBC.
And nobody watches Al Jazeera America.
I can’t blame us for not knowing either. I’ve been tweeting about it off and on since they were kidnapped but I didn’t keep writing. I failed at passing the story along.
The parents condemned the continued detention of the girls by the Boko Haram militants in the forest and lamented the glaring inability of the security operatives to rescue over 200 girls from their captors.Nigeria has been fighting Boko Haram since 2009, when the group overran police stations. Since then they’ve taken the lives of thousands. Nigeria’s military has taken considerable criticism at failing to curb the violence in the country’s northern states that have been in a state of emergency for the last 11 months. Boko Haram attacks. The military reacts with almost equally brutal force. 750,000 have fled their homes fleeing both.
One of the parents of the abducted girls who spoke to the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on condition of anonymity accused the federal government of letting the girls and their families down.
"Since the government has disappointed us over the rescue of our children, we'll rather seek foreign intervention; for foreign countries to wade into the matter to rescue our daughters from the kidnappers.
Boko Haram specializes at attacking children.They attack schools. They slaughter students in their beds. They shoot teachers. They kidnap young women for the purpose of rape. They murder people at worship. They are horrors made real.
While they claim to be a Muslim group, they are indiscriminate in who they murder. Christians and Muslims alike are targets. Anyone who criticizes the group, they consider them unworthy of life. Their bombing campaigns have moved to the capital city of Abuja, where 75 were killed in a bomb attack just this month, just after the Nigerian government announced that they'd "cornered" the terrorists in the nation's north-east. Ooops.
Nigeria is also a deeply divided nation. One of Africa’s wealthiest thanks to its oil wealth, many people live on only $2 a day. There is a significant north-south divide in almost every social metric. But the kidnapping of 200 young women, who just wanted to get educated, seems to have horrified everyone. Everyone, except Boko Haram.
More than a week since they disappeared, the girls' whereabouts are still unknown. About 44 escaped by jumping from the back of trucks used to ferry them away or by sneaking out of the kidnappers' camp deep inside the Sambisa forest. This latest tragedy has dominated national conversation and consumed columns in our newspapers. At Christian and Muslim gatherings prayers have been offered for the girls' safety.Exactly. They are simply people’s children. I do have to wonder if people would care more if they’d been the children of 230 Ukrainian families, because if you haven’t heard of this horror, you haven’t heard of other horrors too.
In the days since they went missing, almost every friend or colleague I have spoken to on the phone has devoted the first minutes of our chat to expressing their horror at the abduction. Despite what one would imagine is the bottomless capacity of Nigerians to absorb catastrophe – what with the series of carnages that have steadily erupted in the country over the past year, at least – people here seem particularly affected.
But this time Nigerians are not falling too easily. Unlike bloodletting in our land from an earlier era, where machetes and daggers were used to lash out at specific ethnic and religious groups, the recent series of bomb blasts have not discriminated. Christians and Muslims have been slaughtered, as have Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. For a change, every Nigerian is united in his or her need for safety. The 234 missing girls are not being seen as Hausa or Igbo or Yoruba; they are simply people's children.
In the Central African Republic,hundreds of refugees are taking refuge at a church. They’re Muslim. Their attackers are Christian. Elsewhere in that nation thousands have died. There’s a very real concern it could boil over and resemble Rwanda of 1994. The violence in CAR is far deeper than just Christians versus Muslims and vice-versa, but you don’t know about it, because western media rather doesn’t seem to care (and it’d report the simplistic sectarian violence view anyway).
The real horror of that story is the refugees have to vacate the church every Sunday while the very people who have chased them there, ostensibly to murder them, celebrate Mass. It’s probably the only time they’re safe outside of their sanctuary.
In neighboring South Sudan the world briefly paid some attention when it voted itself away from the rest of Sudan after decades of bloody civil war. Western media doesn’t seem to have noticed much that it’s fallen back into civil war. At least the UN seems to have noticed.
The United Nations Security Council should react to horrific attacks on civilians in the South Sudan towns of Bor and Bentiu by requesting an urgent UN fact-finding mission. The Security Council should impose sanctions on individuals in both government and opposition forces who are responsible for grave abuses.(Sanctions on an already desperately poor nation though? Who does this help?)
The UN Security Council is scheduled to discuss South Sudan on April 23, 2014. It should also increase the ability of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to protect civilians, including expediting the deployment of additional troops it authorized on December 24, 2013.
“The killing of more than 50 people in a UN base in Bor and the gruesome massacres of hundreds of civilians in Bentiu shows that ethnically motivated brutality against civilians is spiraling out of control,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The UN Security Council needs to act decisively to impress on the warring parties targeting civilians in South Sudan that they will pay the price for their crimes.”
I have no idea what can be done except to pay attention to it. But 200 young women are still missing. Nigeria says it’s going to crack down, again, harder. But 200 young women are still missing. I’m sure the State Department will make a statement. But 200 young women remain missing. Maybe the UN will send more peacekeepers sourced from the rest of the African Union. But 200 young women are still missing, in peril. What can be done? I don't know.
Pay attention, I say. Pay attention. Remember though, 200 young women are missing, all because some terrorists think they shouldn't be educated.