In May of 2014, the world was in outcry. New York Times reporter Nick Kristof had just broken the story that Boko Haram had abducted three hundred some Nigerian schoolgirls from their dormitory. Soon, there was a viral hashtag and US military forces on the search for them. Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Angelina Jolie and Cara Delevingne were tweeting about it. There were protests.
I was a high school freshman, ecstatic to have just started blogging for Huffington Post. For my first post, I knew I had to write about these girls, whose kidnapping absolutely enraged me. I had different friends, classes and interests. As a slightly older and (I like to think) slightly wiser junior, I sometimes cringe when I look back at who I was in the spring of 2014. I can't even begin to imagine how the lives of these girls have changed -- from students to slaves, from daughters to wives.
Shortly after their abduction in 2014, these girls were forgotten. About 50 of them escaped the terrorist group. But the large majority are still missing. After a few weeks of intense media coverage, the story evaporated from headlines, as it did from government interest.
Although the Nigerian, US and UK governments have publicly stated they are continuing the search for the Chibok girls, the statements are nebulous and continued for two years without a single update. "We do not know if the Chibok girls can be rescued," Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerian President, said in 2015. "Their whereabouts remain unknown. As much as I wish to, I cannot promise that we can find them." Grief-stricken parents are making presses on the governments' apparent lack of progress -- save for a new Senate resolution that surfaced after Boko Haram released a video of their captives, the first update from the girls in two years.
But the Chibok schoolgirls aren't Boko Haram's only victims. The group has become notorious for targeting schools, as an estimated 1 million students have paused their education, whether it's because their school has been destroyed or they fear the group will harm them. UNICEF reports that Boko Haram has abducted more than 50 children as suicide bombers, with the large majority of them being girls who refused to become "military wives."
With the tidal wave of fear surrounding ISIS, one would think a spotlight would be cast on Boko Haram as well. The group's civilian casualties surpasses that of ISIS, but its atrocities remain limited in the mainstream vocabulary. We need a fundamental shift in the way we think about and report on terrorist groups--we need to think not just of our national interests as what could happen on US soil, but account for the kind of global impact a group is having on civilian populations, no matter where they are.
And yet, amidst the horrendous turmoil, there's a glimmer of hope. After two years of living captive under Boko Haram, a single Chibok girl has been found during a Nigerian Army raid against Boko Haram, just last Wednesday. Reportedly pregnant, tired and limping, she told officials the whereabouts of the 200 other young women. There has never been such a window to #BringBackOurGirls, and we absolutely must.