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Boko Haram: Weakened? Active?

It’s been almost a year since the Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted by the Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram. April 15 of this year will mark the anniversary of the gruesome day that the world, Nigerians, and especially the victims and their loved will always remember. Lives were taken, the promised futures were ended short, and people’s lives were shaken as a result of Boko Haram.

What is the update on Boko Haram?

Since the brutal kidnapping, the attention that Boko Haram received brought international awareness from many international organizations and countries. Although the group has been terrorizing Nigeria for over 5 years now, they made international headlines just from last year when they abducted the school girls. Looking back from April 2014, although Boko Haram is still on the rise and continue to commit gruesome acts, the former Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan told BBC that the terrorist group is “getting weaker everyday.”

2177170260Some people may disagree that Boko Haram is getting “weaker everyday” considering all the news reports that have been centered about the group. Not mentioning their weekly continual attacks on Nigerians and other citizens of surrounding countries. In January this year, the group made the headlines again after they attacked a village in Nigeria, killing hundreds to thousands of people. Amnesty International referred this horrendous act as the “deadliest attack” that the group has carried so far. In a village called Kanu, the Islamist militants drove around the village firing bullets everywhere while the helpless residents run for their lives, seeking refuge in the bushes.  In the end, reports claimed that at least about 2,000 people were feared to be dead, with at least 30, 000 of them being displaced (CNN).

In February this year, BBC reported that Boko Haram attacked Chad, the first attack they have carried in the country. The Islamic militant group were seen crossing Lake Chad “in four motorboats and attacking a village.” More than 10 people were reported dead. Houses were destroyed until the Chadian army got involved and drove out the militants. Cameroon, Niger, and Chad are the new countries that the Islamic militant group has attacked recently. Again, the militant group has been covering the news with new attacks claimed almost every other day.

From March 7 through March 29, the militant group claimed attacks that left many people dead and some wounded. Suicide attacks were carried out, bombs were blasted,shots were fired, peoples lives lost, and many others left in fear as a result of this militant group. Just a few days ago on March 28th, Nigeria held presidential elections. Boko Haram islamists attacked some voters and left at least 11 people killed and some injured.

Looking at the reports from the last 3 months, is it true that the Islamic militant group is getting weaker and weaker (as former President Goodluck Jonathan stated)? Or is it because not many of their attacks are covering international news anymore? The former President of Nigeria may claim that Boko Haram is getting weaker, but the militant group seem to be very active and killing people everyday. As for the abducted girls,only less than 30 school girls escaped Boko Haram since April 14 last year,  It’s been almost a year, and over 200 school girls of them remain captured. Let us continue to fight for and #BringBackOurGirls. (Read our first post about #BBOG here)

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Stoking the embers of #BringBackOurGirls

On April 14, a group of Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad militants attacked the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria, and kidnapped approximately 276 female students. How could such a barbaric act be successful and how is it possible that today we know little more than we did a month ago?

Since then, the world has taken up the rally call of “Bring Back Our Girls” – urging, asking, begging, demanding the return of these girls. So far Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, called by the world Boko Haram, have not been found and have continued their acts of terror on Nigeria.

On May 20, concerned members of the Boston community gathered to learn about and discuss the issues surrounding this horrific issue with Ambassador Walter and Dr. Arese Carrington. After their discussion the floor was open to an emotional and passionate question/answer session.

Fast Facts from Dr. Carrington: Nigeria is 118th/134 in the gender equality index, however count for 1/4 of all women in Sub Saharan Africa. Only 15% of women have a bank account. In the worst state of Nigeria, 94% of women are illiterate. Nigerian’s count ofr 2% of the female world population, but 10% of the maternal mortality rate.

Ambassador Carrington, former envoy to Nigeria, lead with some history and culture of Boko Haram, religion in Nigeria, terrorism, and ideas for a peaceful conclusion. Speaking as a diplomat he believes that negotiation is the only way forward – there is too much danger of collateral damage to the people ‘we’ are trying to save if a military operation is used.

Dr. Carrington then spoke about some alarming figures about girls in Nigeria and how the inherent divides in the culture (gender, north/south, urban/rural) are involved in the reason that Boko Haram has been so successful. She stressed that women are being denied even the most basic Human Rights, however the benefits of education are enormous and educated girls can truly be weapons of mass development. It is immensely detrimental to the whole society that girls are now afraid to do go to school and their very dreams are interrupted if not destroyed. “An uneducated population is a population in bondage.”

The #BringBackOurGirls campaign, with popular culture icons, like First Lady Michelle Obama, supermodels, movie stars, and musicians, has skyrocketed the exposure of the issue, putting pressure on the Nigerian government

A common thread through the conversation was the role that social media has played in this case. Amb. Carrington believes that there would be little hope for the girls if ‘major’ players (like the U.S., U.K. and France) had not joined in the search – although it is up to Nigeria to bring them back and set the terms for rehabilitation as well as penalty – and it is because of social media that the world now uses #BringBackOurGirls. Social Media has taken a hold of the topic and refused to let go, speaking where the press had not; creating outside pressure on Nigeria which has demanded action. As Amb. Carrington said, #BringBackOurGirls is lighting a fire that we must keep stoking. The “embers are not allowed to die until the last of the girls havs been returned home”

So what were the recommendations moving forward? Well here are a few thoughts from the Carringtons.

      • We must think long-term. Nigeria needs to demand security now, not in 2015 with the upcoming elections, but right now.
      • We need to get and expose the facts. It is all well and good to express opinions, but the most important and powerful message is the one that has facts backing it up.
      • Nigerians living outside of Nigeria are the ones that can really make a difference – be ambassadors and get in touch with your local representatives and insist on action
      • As is true with most countries, there need to be more women in power positions to push the women issues, such as equal pay, right to education, right to health, basic human rights.
      • We all need to keep the fire burning – we should all be activists!

THANK YOU to everyone who came out and had their voices heard on the 20th!

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Read more about this issue! Some suggestions: Council of Foreign Relations on Boko Haram, BBC: Who are Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists, BBC: Timeline of Events, BBC 5 Questions AnsweredBring Back Our Girls Tumblr,