Last week I wrote about 234 Nigerian girls who had been kidnaped from their boarding school in Chibok by the terrorist group Boko Haram. The mainstream media was slow to cover the story, but with pressure from the forces of social media (#BringBackOurGirls) and alternate news outlets, the world continues to get more information about the plight of these 234 school girls.
Abubakar Shekau, the supposed leader of Boko Haram, released a video today in which he laughs as he announces, "I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah...There is a market for selling humans...I sell women." The video was originally released by Agence France-Presse. Watch the clip with the link below. It's only about a minute. Be prepared to look at the face of evil as you note the leader's horrifying smile.
The girls were kidnapped April 14, and as we sit three weeks later, the Nigerian government, led by President Goodluck Jonathan, is no closer to bringing them home. It has been reported that the girls are being held deep within the dense Simbisa forest, making a rescue mission extremely difficult.
But who is Boko Haram? Boko Haram is a muderous terrorist organization. Literally translated, their name means "Western education is a sin." They want to overthrow the Nigerian government and make Nigeria a "pure Islamist state" governed by Sharia law.
Boko Haram members forbid interaction with the Western World and are radically anti-education. They believe education should be limited to reading the Qur'an. As a result, they target symbols of western ideology with their violence. They bomb and attack people associated with churches, police stations and schools.
If you haven't heard of Boko Haram before, you're not alone. They came onto the world radar screen about five years ago. In November 2013, the U.S. State Department classified Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. Their violence has escalated since their founder, Mohammed Yusuf, died in police custody. Since his death, Boko Haram has been responsible for countless bombings of churches and police stations in northern Nigeria which led to the current state of emergency in the region.
The violence escalated last July, when Boko Haram attacked and killed 42 students at the Yobe State School. In Septmeber 2013, Boko Haram attacked the College of Agriculture in Gujba and killed 40 students and in February, 2014, 29 teen boys were executed at the Federal Governement College Buni Yadi. The kidnaping of 234 girls last month could indicate Boko Haram is becoming more brazen and organized.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry happens to be visiting Africa and was quoted as saying, "The U.S. will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes." Talks continue as to how the U.S. can best help rescue these young women. Since the #BringBackOurGirls campaign began, people are wearing red and hosting rallies all over the world to bring attention to the girls' situation.
Everyone I've spoken with agrees the kidnapping of these girls is beyond horrific. But what can we actually do besides read the articles and watch the coverage? Thanks to social media, we can do a lot. By tweeting or writing Facebook posts with #BringBackOurGirls, we create solidarity. We let the world (Nigerians, our American leaders and more) know we are watching and we care. By tweeting messages of hope using #BringBackOurDaughters, mothers in Nigeria will know parents and good people across the world empathize with their pain.
Often people tell me they don't have time for social media. I have real friends. I'm out doing real things. I don't spend my life online. I understand. I'm busy, too. Or I hear, social media is so narcissistic. No one is asking you to give up anything or become a tin-foil cap-wearing hermit. No one needs to ignore the job, kids, or grooming habits to become an active citizen of the world. I just want to encourage good people to speak up. Your phone/ laptop is a world stage. Use it for good. Conversations are happening and the world needs your voice.
P.S. By liking a post on Facebook about a distressing topic, you are not signalling to the world you "like" what is happening. A "like" means hey, I read this and I find it important, intriguing, etc. When posts receive little interaction from readers, FB stops showing those posts.
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