At Least 230 Nigerian Schoolgirls Were Abducted, And No One's Been Able To Rescue Them

Two weeks ago, more than 230 girls were abducted from a school in Chibok, Nigeria, a town in the northeast state of Borno small enough to escape the notice of Google Maps. The young women, mostly aged 16 to 18, were back at school to take final exams and were abducted at night by a militant Islamist group that operates in the region called Boko Haram. Other schools in the area had been closed due to threats of violence after Boko Haram killed 59 boys in a boarding school attack in February. The group has described Western education as a "plot against Islam," according to the Guardian.

The 16-, 17-, and 18-year-olds at the all-girls' state school were both Muslim and Christian. Their crime? Trying to get an education.

And guess what? Nobody went to rescue the girls, even though the Nigerian military claimed to have rescued nearly all of them a day after it happened. Distraught parents wielding nothing but bows and arrows went to try and rescue their children themselves, but were told to turn back by other villagers who'd seen the girls' captors, according to The New Yorker, because their flimsy weapons would be no match for the well-armed militants.

Some say the girls have been smuggled into bordering Cameroon and forced into marriages. Others say the girls were mass married to their captors after being forced to convert to Islam and are now being "shared out as wives" — that is to say, raped — among the militants, according to the South China Morning Post. Still others say their release is yet possible.

So more than two weeks after they were abducted, most of the Chibok girls — the ones who haven't escaped — are still missing. Nobody knows where they are, who has them, or even whether they're still alive, because the Nigerian military has consistently failed to protect citizens from Boko Haram, and the international community doesn't seem to prioritize missing schoolgirls.

The Nigerian government initially claimed just over 100 girls were abducted, even though the town and school says the figure is more than twice that. The initial number was cited in an April 17 United Nations statement condemning the attack:

We are extremely concerned by the recent abduction of some 100, 12 to 17-year-old girls who were taken from their school hostel in Chibok, Borno State, in Nigeria on the night of 14th April. Attacks against the liberty of children and the targeting of schools are prohibited under international law and cannot be justified under any circumstances. ...
Schools are and must remain places of safety and security, where children can learn and grow in peace. Girls and young women must be allowed to go to school without fear of violence and unjust treatment so that they can play their rightful role as equal citizens of the world. Women and girls have the right to live free from intimidation, persecution and all other forms of discrimination.

About 40 young women have since escaped, a point one Chibok government official wanted a New Yorker reporter to make clear.

Nobody rescued them. I want you to stress this point. Nobody rescued them. They escaped on their accord. This is painful.

So where are the Chibok girls? And why are so many still waiting for rescue?

Image: Twitter/Adetola Adekunle