Boko Haram releases 21 Chibok school girls

More than 2 years after capture, schoolgirls are released in negotiations

By Ashley Aalto, Staff Writer

Bring Back Our Girls. PC: Xavier J. Peg/ Flickr

Bring Back Our Girls. PC: Xavier J. Peg/ Flickr

After more than two years of being held hostage by the Boko Haram, 21 Chibok schoolgirls were released on Thursday, October 16, 2016.

On the night of April 14th and into the early morning of April 15th 2014, the terrorist group Boko Haram captured more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls from the town of Chibok. The Boko Haram broke into houses; kidnapped schoolgirls aged 16 to 18 years of age, and burned down many houses in addition to the attack.

Boko Haram is a terrorist organization that believes in a total Islamic state, especially in terms of education. They reject modern Western-style education due to the belief that it leads people away from traditional Islamic values. The Boko Haram has killed many people through acts of terrorism to achieve this goal, with the number now exceeding 30,000.  They have stated that the attacks will continue until the Nigerian government agrees to cease the impediment on traditional Islamic education.

57 schoolgirls have escaped since the kidnapping, but these 21 girls are the first to be released. The girls were released due to a negotiation between the Boko Haram and the Nigerian government. During negotiations, it was agreed upon that 21 school girls would be released in exchange for 4 members of the terrorist organization that were being held by government.

While captive, the girls were used as servants, soldiers, and sex slaves. They were made to unwillingly convert to Islam, marry Boko Haram members for a bride token (paid by groom or family to bride’s family) of an equivalent to $12.50 USD.

One of the girls who was released, Aisha* told PBS News that she was forced to marry one of the Boko Haram members, then became pregnant and gave birth in the camp. She stated that she hated her child until a woman who was also in captivity taught her about the innocence of the child and showed her how to love it. The child was also released with the 21 schoolgirls.

After returning home to their families, many of the girls received social shame from their community due to the kidnapping. There is a strong fear related to the Boko Haram, and because these young women were associated with them so closely, the community believes that these girls will also carry out acts of terror.  They shame the girls by calling them “Boko Haram wives” and in a few cases, beating them.

There is a strong and persistent hope that the remaining schoolgirls will be released. The #BringBackOurGirls campaign told NBC News that they encourage the Nigerian government to “fulfill the pledge it made to rescue … every other abducted citizen of our country.” With approximately 197 school girls still missing, efforts will continue to retrieve the girls safely.

*Name changed for anonymity purposes

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