On May 6, at least 80 of the so-called Chibok girls were released from captivity by Boko Haram, a militant Islamic group. The release is reported to have occurred following talks between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram. Before this release, 195 of the original 276 girls were still held in captivity, often forced to convert to Islam and marry their captors. The released girls are said to now be in the custody of the Nigerian army and being treated by medical professionals for all potential injuries.
The kidnapping of these girls occurred on April 14, 2014. Boko Haram attacked a secondary boarding school Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria. In the area, Boko Haram had periodically attacked a number of schools that taught young women on the principle that to educate women corrupts Muslim values. As a result, many schools in the area were closed. However, the school in Chibok had yet to be attacked, and so it was used as the venue for young women to take exams. The militants arrived by night and opened fire on the school. They raided dormitories and made off with some 276 girls that became known around the world as the Chibok girls. International outrage was sparked immediately, leading to the infamous hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. However, in the months following, global concern on the matter lessened and questions began to circle as to whether the international community could have done more. However, the “Nigerian military and the politicians believed that they were capable of dealing with that and so neither asked for, wanted, or indeed accepted any of the offers for further help.”
With that said, Boko Haram is a militant Islamic group that works towards the end goal of overthrowing the established government and creating an Islamic state. The official name of the group is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, which means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad” when translated. Boko Haram’s practice of Islam surrounds the idea of “haram,” meaning forbidden. According to the BBC, it is forbidden “for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society.” This includes the education of girls, voting in elections, and a secular education among a variety of other actions. The group was founded in 2002 and originally focused entirely on opposing Western education. However, as the group grew, so did their plays of power, and in 2009 they officially began to make plays for the creation of an Islamic state, beginning with public shootouts of police stations and other government buildings. Using guns and kidnappings, the group gained ground and power. As of now, an estimated 2,000 people are in captivity and some 30,000 have been killed at the hands of Boko Haram. In recent years, this power has lessened, yet the UN insists that Boko Haram not be written off yet. The group outlived nearly all other militant Islamic groups that rose and have a strong presence in neighbouring states, which they use as recruiting grounds and to avoid government interference, which means that they have the potential to make an attempt to take back power.
The families of the returned girls celebrated the news. Enoch Mark, a pastor whose two daughters were among those kidnapped, said, “This is good news to us. We have been waiting for this day. We hope the remaining girls will soon be released.” His statement is a chilling reminder that even in the face of joyous reunions between families, there are still many families mourning the loss of a child that has yet to be returned. Therefore, while it is important to celebrate the return of these young women, it is also imperative to never forget those that are still in captivity.