After reports surfaced that over 200 kidnapped Nigerian school girls may’ve been sold into sex slavery, parents of the missing protested in their Chibok town to spur the government into action and their cries rippled around the world.
Supporters took to the streets of Lagos, Washington D.C., London and New York. Online, social media activists birthed the hashtag #bringbackourgirls to create international political pressure and rally action from the Nigerian military, who don’t seem to be looking for the teens. The push continued through the weekend and resulted in the mostly silent President Goodluck Jonathan announcing on Saturday to a group of security, state and school officials that “everything must be done” to retrieve the girls. Today marks the fourth week since they were abducted.
Jonathan added, reports AP, that Nigeria is winning their war against Islamic extremist groups, despite the bomb explosion just last week in the country’s capital that killed nearly 19 people. That bombing was on the heels of another explosion on April 14 that killed almost 70.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia over the weekend, but promised to help find the missing.
"The kidnapping of hundreds of children by Boko Haram is an unconscionable crime, and we will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and to hold the perpetrators to justice.”
On Monday, the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, who many suspected had taken the girls, confirmed that indeed they had.
The French news organization AFP received a video of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau claiming responsibility for the missing Nigerian teens.
"I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market," Shekau added.
Like the reports of the girls being sold for marriage, Shekau's claims haven't been officially confirmed. And while the #bringbackourgirls protests sparked international action to get the girls back — the official number has now risen to 276 missing — those who participated in Nigeria were harassed and some protest leaders were arrested at the instruction of President Jonathan's wife, Patience Jonathan, reports the AP.
A leader of a protest march for the missing schoolgirls says Nigeria's first lady abused them, expressed doubts there was any kidnapping and accused them of belonging to the network blamed for the abductions. Then she ordered two of them arrested, the AP reported.
Saratu Angus Ndirpaya of Chibok town said State Security Service agents drove her and protest leader Naomi Mutah Nyadar to a police station Monday after an all-night meeting at the presidential villa in Abuja, the capital. She said Nyadar remains in detention. Police could not be reached for comment.
Ndirpaya says Patience Jonathan accused them of fabricating the abductions to give Nigeria's government and her husband "a bad name."
It doesn't look like they have to try very hard.
Right now, police say that at least 53 girls have escaped their captors, but none were rescued by the country’s military. Like Deborah Sanya told the New Yorker, she just made a run for it on her own. Stories like hers make President Jonathan’s weekend announcement so unbelievable, since parents have been asking him to save their kids for four weeks and little to nothing was done. However with the international media tuned into this situation, Jonathan may have no choice but to act, even if its just for show.
Photo Credit: AP Images.