Tuesday, May 13, 2014

#BringBackOurGirls: 276 Schoolgirls Abducted in Nigeria, Threatened to be Sold into Slavery and Forced into Marriage

By Leann D. Stanick, J.D.

The international community has wearily awaited authorization to intervene as Nigerian families have been begging the government to recover 276 schoolgirls who were kidnapped from their school and hid in an undisclosed location in the forest. Threats of selling the girls, aged between 16 and 18, into slavery, forced marriages, and rape have outraged human rights activists worldwide.

On April 14, 276 the students were kidnapped in Chibok by a terrorist organization known as Boko Haram. Boko Haram, which translates to “Western education is sin”, states that its aim is to impose strict enforcement of the Sharia law across Africa.

A member of Boko Haram stated in a video obtained by Agence-France Presse:

“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. [. . .] There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.” 

After the initial abduction, at least 8 more girls were kidnapped from a nearby village and 150 people were killed—some burned alive—in an attack on Gamboru Ngala, causing rising international pressures to find the missing girls.

International Intervention

Former prime minister and current United Nations’ special advisor on girls’ education, Gordon Brown, launched a fundraising and awareness campaign, stating:

“We cannot stop terrorism overnight, but we can make sure that its perpetrators are aware that murdering and abducting schoolchildren is a heinous crime that the international authorities are determined to punish.” 

Initially, foreign aid was mostly uninvited. As one representative put it: "If countries can help us by way of arming our people through modern surveillance equipment, for defence and all that, it will be most welcome. [But] what the Boko Haram is doing is not a formal kind of fight but a guerrilla kind of fight, and it is only the local people that will tell you how to fight it." However, after almost a month has passed without any signs of rescue, it seems that the Nigerian government is now more willing to concede to outside assistance. Efforts to retrieve the girls have been frivolous due to suspected leaks in the chain of command, which is evidenced by rescue plans being repeatedly ambushed.

Only after the Boko Haram attacked the village hosting troops that were searching for the girls did President Goodluck Jonathan accept U.S., British, and Chinese offers to aid in finding the girls. The United States offers law enforcement and military consultation, in conjunction with a joint coordination cell at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja aimed at providing intelligence, investigations, and hostage negotiation expertise. Great Britain is sending a team of experts. Satellite and intelligence services are also to be provided by China to assist in the search. 

International Cooperation in Countering Attacks on Human Rights 

The Boko Haram has been terrorizing Nigeria for years and is responsible for bombings, murders, attacks, and countless human rights violations. It is unfortunate that it took such a deplorable act as kidnapping 267 schoolgirls during their final exams to convince the Nigerian government to put down its shield of state sovereignty. At this point, it is no longer about government control, or a lack thereof. It is about violence against women, forced marriage, rape, human trafficking, modern-day slavery, kidnapping, mass murder, and other related crimes against humanity. 

With the advent of social media and other forms of technology spreading the news of the missing girls faster than ever, the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls has gone viral. Since the news stories developed so quickly, why is international governmental communication, cooperation, and interdependence still a seemingly slow-moving wheel? For the sake of international human rights and the girls themselves, the aid of three major superpowers ought to effect change in combating the Boko Haram immediately. 

Recent Updates

A Boko Haram leader recently stated on a second video that the girls would be released if imprisoned members of Boko Haram are freed. Approximately 100 of the kidnapped girls were seen in the video released again by Agence France-Presse. The Nigerian government continues to explore negotiation options. 

The United States is providing aerial surveillance, China and France are helping with search efforts, and Israel plans to send a team of counterterrorism experts.

Leann D. Stanick graduated from Florida Coastal School of Law having earned an International & Comparative Law Certificate, and recently passed the New York and New Jersey state bar exams. She completed an internship at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the Caribbean Law Clinic, and study abroad programs in Rwanda, South Africa, and the Cayman Islands. She is a new member of the ABA Section of International Law, International Human Rights Committee. 

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