Nigeria has experienced the emergence of a radical Islamist group, Boko Haram, since the beginning of the last century. Officially founded in 2002, the name Boko Haram originates from the Hausa word “Boko,” meaning western and the Arabic word “haram” meaning forbidden. The radical Islamist group believes that Muslims should not take part in any Westernized traditions or interact with the Western world. As being formerly colonized by the British, Boko Haram aims to capitalize off of anti-Western sentiment in Nigeria with the ultimate goal of creating an Islamic State by overthrowing the current government.
One of the groups tactics has been to target and capture school children in Nigeria because they consider the “Western education” provided by the government to be sinful. The most noticeable instance of this occurred in 2014 when the militant group captured 276 school girls, bringing massive international attention to the extremist group. A little over a month ago on February 16th, 110 schoolgirls were kidnapped in a similar fashion. However 30 days later, unexpectedly, the militant group returned 104 of the schoolgirls back to government officials.
While survivors of the kidnapping say that they were not tortured, they have stated that Boko Haram militants would try to teach them the Quran and would regularly supervise their prayers. As for the other six girls, it is believed that unfortunately, that five of the girls have died and one lone girl still remains under capture. It is believed that the motivation for the Boko Haram militants keeping 15-year-old Leah Sharibu is due to her Christian faith. In a phone interview with NPR, Leah’s mother, Rebecca Sharibu voiced her concerns: “I feel so bad and so worried. I am so worried about her. I’m still fasting, every day I’m fasting for Leah. Let the government try their best to bring her for me.”
Going against the pleas from the other girls under capture by Boko Haram, Leah refused to renounce her Christian faith. Groups from all across the country have put pressure on the Nigerian government demanding the safe return of the last remaining school girl. Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, has tried to reassure the public that Nigerian officials are fully committed to bringing home Leah. Malam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President, gave out the following statement: “The Buhari administration will not relent in efforts to bring Leah Sharibu safely back home to her parents, as it has done for the other girls after she was held back by the terrorists over her decision, as reported, not to convert from Christianity to Islam.”
Despite reassurance from the government, the current status of both Leah’s return and her current condition remain uncertain. Even before the kidnapping, President Buhari faced starch criticism with abysmal poll numbers. And to make matters worse, it was discovered that the Buhari administration removed security that served to protect the town recently before the kidnapping had taken place in Dapchi. With increasing pressures from the outside community, the Buhari administration must find a way to safely bring home Leah Sharibu. While each passing day brings forth greater concern, it is essential that the Buhari administration successfully brings home Leah so that her bravery does not end in vain.
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