Mona Chalabi puts the kidnapping of the Nigerian schoolgirls in grim context:
I’m using GDELT, the Global Database of Events, Language and Tone, an enormous catalog “of human societal-scale behavior and beliefs across all countries of the world.” There are copious types of “behavior” it records, including protests, deportations, assassinations and kidnappings (technically, events categorized as “abduct, hijack, take hostage”). GDELT is updated daily using thousands of broadcast, print and online news sources in more than 100 languages, and includes events back to 1979.
We were able to extract every Nigerian kidnapping in the database over the past quarter-century — 25,247 in all.
GDELT’s data shows that the number of kidnappings over the past three decades has risen from just two in 1983 to 3,608 in 2013. It’s an increase so large that it’s probably not solely the result of better reporting or the rise in (and online availability of) news reports on the topic.
Maya Shwader points to some other depressing statistics:
Sadly, the exploitation of young girls is not exactly uncommon in Nigeria.
According to Girls Not Brides, 39 percent of girls in Nigeria are married off before their 18th birthday. Sixteen percent are married before they turn 15. Only 23 of Nigeria’s 36 states have adopted the 2003 UN Child Right’s Act, which declares that anyone under the age of 18 is a child. One of the states that failed to ratify the Child Rights Act was Borno, where these girls were kidnapped.
Worse yet: Nigeria has one of the highest numbers of enslaved people in the world: between 670,000 and 740,000 people out of a total population of 168.8 million. For women and girls, and even boys, this often means sexual slavery.
Alexis Okeowo discovers that the Nigerian military may have missed an opportunity to prevent the kidnapping:
[Amnesty International researcher Makmid] Kamara and I each spoke to Chibok residents who said that they had heard Boko Haram was coming to the town up to two hours before the kidnapping. They alerted security officials, but the military only sent more troops several hours after the abduction. “There is a big disconnect between the security personnel and the community. People don’t trust the military to give information to them because they fear that they will be arrested or seen as conspirators or suspects,” Kamara said. “It’s getting increasingly difficult for people to approach the security forces to provide valuable information on planned attacks or things like that.” If and when a Nigerian military operation takes place to recover the girls, observers worry that soldiers will continue to violate the human rights of northeastern Nigerians.
Boko Haram, meanwhile, has carried out a brutal attack on a northern town, exploiting a security gap created by the search for the missing girls:
Around 300 people were killed in a Boko Haram invasion of the northern Nigerian town of Gamboru Ngala in the state of Borno, AFP reports, with a local leader saying the insurgents spent 12 hours killing defenseless citizens with rifles, IEDs, rocket launchers, and more. “The attackers stormed the communities in the night when residents were still sleeping, setting ablaze houses, shops and residents who tried to escaped from the fire, were shot,” said Senator Ahmed Zannah, who is from the area.
Nigerian newspaper Vanguard reports that security forces meant to protect the town were going after the kidnapping victims and “moved to the Lake Chad axis when they received [an] intelligence report that some gunmen were sighted with abducted schoolgirls moving to the area.” That’s when the terror began.
Washington is offering to help with the search, but Alice Speri advises us not to expect too much:
“To be frank it means they’ll send a handful of FBI agents over to advise in hostage negotiations and a potential rescue operation, it’s very unlikely we are launching any US military forces to go do the mission,” Dan O’Shea, a former US Navy SEAL who spent several years working on hostage rescue operations in Iraq, told VICE News. “They are not US citizens, there’s no US equity at stake, to risk US assets. We are paying more lip service than anything else.”
Mashable obtained more details on US involvement:
Department of Defense spokesperson Lt. Col. Myles Caggins told Mashable that the AFRICOM team, part of the larger State Department-led “coordination cell” that will operate at the embassy, will have a planning and coordination role to support the Nigerian government. The military personnel heading to the country will not, he said, physically search for the girls — or the militant Islamist group Boko Haram.
A reader in Nigeria shares his view:
This is a genuinely bad situation, no matter how you look at it, but it deserves a complete portrayal which I think has been largely lost in your coverage. It is being portrayed, rightly or wrongly, as an issue about women’s rights, slavery, and a war on education in Nigeria; neither of which are fully accurate when you examine this in full context. Nigeria is a relatively modern country where women are roughly as educated as men. Boko Haram may not like Western education, but that doesn’t mean they have any chance of ending it in a country where its people value education in terms that led to a recent comparison to Chinese, Indians, Jews – any more than the ’90s clinic bombers had of ending abortion in America.
This is not a clean-cut issue with a clean-cut solution. It’s about elusive violent Islamic salafi jihadists terrorizing the northern part of Nigeria; a region that is tremendously impoverished and uneducated for historical reasons; a government incapable of fully addressing the issue over the years; a Nigerian population (especially the largely Westernized southerners) that has become somewhat complacent about, and largely detached, emotionally and geographically, from, Boko Haram’s violence, which has mostly occurred in the aforementioned northern part.
The abuse of women (girls in this case) is nauseating and horrific, but this issue does not boil down to a women’s rights issue, education of girls in Nigeria, slavery, or hashtags that paints a very complex situation in simplistic and sensational terms.