234 Missing Nigerian School Girls Possibly Sold Off as Child Brides

The story of the 234 missing Nigerian school girls has taken a terrible turn — they have reportedly been married off to the terrorist militant Islamist group, Boko Haram.

According to the Washington Post, Samson Dawah, an uncle of one of the kidnapped students who were taken over two weeks ago, learned through his own independent investigation that the girls were sold to the highest bidder for around $12 American and driven to various other African countries like Chad and Cameroon.

“We have heard from members of the forest community where they took the girls,” he told them, adding that there had been a mass marriage. ”They said there had been mass marriages and the girls are being shared out as wives among the Boko Haram militants.”

Since Boko Haram kidnapped the girls on April 14 from a Chibok school, details have been confusing since the Nigerian Defense Ministry initially distributed misinformation and seems to have followed up by doing little, nothing of which has recovered the girls. Even these new details have yet to draw comment from the Nigerian Military or the country’s President Goodluck Jonathan.

Still, it’s clear that Boko Haram is an extremely dangerous group for adults to be mixed up with, let alone children and teenagers. Amnesty International reports (beware the images are very graphic) that Boko Haram have killed almost 2,300 people since 2010 and is responsible for the recent bombing of Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city.

When the girls were initially taken, the Nigerian military announced that 129 girls were missing and all except for eight had been rescued but that wasn’t true. Then the number rose to 234, however some did escape on their own. Deborah Sanya told the New Yorker her terrifying tale of abduction and escape.

Sanya is eighteen years old and was taking her final exams before graduation. Many of the schools in towns around Chibok, in the state of Borno, had been shuttered. Boko Haram attacks at other schools—like a recent massacre of fifty-nine schoolboys in neighboring Yobe state—had prompted the mass closure. But local education officials decided to briefly reopen the Chibok school for exams. On the night of the abduction, militants showed up at the boarding school dressed in Nigerian military uniforms. They told the girls that they were there to take them to safety. “They said, ‘Don’t worry. Nothing will happen to you,’ ” Sanya told me. The men took food and other supplies from the school and then set the building on fire. They herded the girls into trucks and onto motorcycles. At first, the girls, while alarmed and nervous, believed that they were in safe hands. When the men started shooting their guns into the air and shouting “Allahu Akbar,” Sanya told me, she realized that the men were not who they said they were. She started begging God for help; she watched several girls jump out of the truck that they were in.

It was noon when her group reached the terrorists’ camp. She had been taken not far from Chibok, a couple of remote villages away in the bush. The militants forced her classmates to cook; Sanya couldn’t eat. Two hours later, she pulled two friends close and told them that they should run. One of them hesitated, and said that they should wait to escape at night. Sanya insisted, and they fled behind some trees. The guards spotted them and called out for them to return, but the girls kept running. They reached a village late at night, slept at a friendly stranger’s home, and, the next day, called their families.

Sanya’s friends are still missing and her family feels elated but also guilt-ridden because as they find peace in their girl's safety, their friends and neighbors can’t do the same. Still, Sanya wasn’t the only student to escape. A small number of others have made their narrow way back, but so many more are still missing and perhaps locked into modern day slavery as you are reading this post.

Photo Credit: AP Images.