Earlier this month we reported the devastating news about more than 200 Nigerian girls being kidnapped on their way to school. While the young women have not yet been found, one managed to escape with two friends and is talking about the horrific experience.
Eighteen-year-old Deborah Sanya said in The New Yorker that militants of the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram arrived at her boarding school on the night of her final exam before graduation. When they arrived, Sanya said the men told all of the girls, “Don’t worry. Nothing will happen to you,” but it turns out they were plotting their next move. She says the men took food, stole school supplies and set the school on fire before eventually gathering the girls onto trucks and motorcycles. Sanya admits that the girls were nervous, but still thought they were in safe hands. It was only when the men started shooting guns and shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great” in Islam) that she realized the men had lied.
The Boko Harem militants drove the girls to their camp where they forced Sanya and her classmates to cook, but Sanya didn’t eat. She suggested to two of her friends that they should run. They insisted that they should at least wait until the evening, but Sanya convinced them to leave as soon as possible. The three friends escaped, went behind some bushes and started running without looking back.
According to Alexis Okeowo, The New Yorker writer who wrote the story, Sanya couldn’t give away any more information. “Her cousins and her close friends are still missing,” reported the magazine, “and she is trying to understand how she is alive and back home. All she can do now, she said, is pray and fast, then pray and fast again.”
As for Sanya’s parents, her father, Ishaya Sanya, said in the story that the Nigerian government still hasn’t informed the families in Chibok — the town where Sanya’s school is located — about where the other girls are and the only updates he has received were from the girls who managed to escape. But, The Washington Post recently reported that the girls are being sold into arranged marriages, though they can’t verify the sources. Samson Dawah, whose niece is one of the girls missing, told his family about the update he heard.
“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.”
Village elder Pogo Bitrus told Agence France Presse locals had consulted with “various sources” in the nation’s forested northeast. “From the information we received yesterday from Cameroonian border towns our abducted girls were taken… into Chad and Cameroon,” he said, adding that each girl was sold as a bride to Islamist militants for 2,000 naira — $12.
A “million-woman march” will be held today at Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, and, according to BBC, about 500 people are heading to the National Assembly to hand officials a letter demanding more resources for Nigerian safety forces and, more importantly, for the girls’ safe return home.
Information about where the all the girls are officially now remains sketchy, but Okeowo, The New Yorker writer, wrote on Twitter about the updates she’s received from the residents and parents of Chibok.
Spoke to a parent in Chibok, Nigeria this morning on the phone. They slept in the bush last night after hearing Boko Haram will soon return.
— Alexis Okeowo (@alexis_ok) April 29, 2014
Still so many conflicting figures on the number of Nigerian schoolgirls missing. One parent says over three hundred girls were taken.
— Alexis Okeowo (@alexis_ok) April 29, 2014
Chibok residents told me Boko Haram was still close to town days after girls’ kidnapping, and not yet in Sambisa Forest. Where was military?
— Alexis Okeowo (@alexis_ok) April 29, 2014
A parent with 2 missing daughters was so upset he refused to talk to me. He said there was no point; they had been failed by the government.
— Alexis Okeowo (@alexis_ok) April 29, 2014
Some reports claim all of the school girls are freed, while some reports say that a negotiation between the government and the terrorist group are “within reach” even as the girls’ safety is still in jeopardy. Wherever the girls are, the news about their circumstances should not be shoved under the rug.
News about the Malaysian aircraft and Donald Sterling’s racism has been covered extensively, but stories on black girls, especially those from other countries, are rarely covered. Anyone can actively help in this situation by merely giving it the exposure it deserves. It goes without saying that Black girls should not get kidnapped in any circumstance, but it’s troubling to know that the most vulnerable space for them seems to be the one place that should be the safest.
HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED: We reported on this Change.org petition that is calling for the “right level of coverage in international media” and for international organizations to pressure the Nigerian government to “intensify its search efforts.” More than 38,000 people have signed the petition, but it needs more than 11,000 more signatures. Please sign it here.
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