Nigerian Military Giving Women & Girls Captured By Boko Haram A New Chance At Life

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It was the news that shocked us all (in a good way!) this week. The Nigerian Military have rescued a large number of women and girls from the clutches of extremist Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram, known for their disdain for western education and women being equal to men.

200 girls, 93 women, and a further 160 hostages were rescued from Boko Haram’s Sambisa Forest stronghold, and the military are not done yet. While this is cause for much celebration, it has now been over a year since the nearly 300 school girls from Chibok Elementary school were kidnapped by the group, sparking worldwide outrage and the viral hashtag #BringBackOurGirls that still continues to raise awareness today. The Chibok elementary girls are NOT among those rescued by the military, but are remaining positive they will find them.

“There is great hope for recovery of more hostages of the terrorists,” said Defence spokesman Chris Olukolade in a statement to reporters.

According to Amnesty International, since the start of 2014 Boko Haram have kidnapped 2000 women and girls, and let’s not forget the horrific killing of thousand of other people in the north of Nigeria where they have been unrelentingly wreaking havoc.

Outgoing Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has been heavily criticized for not doing enough to rescue the girls. And for newly elected president Muhammadu Buhari it seems his administration will begin on a positive note if the Chibok school girls can also be accounted for soon.

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The Former military ruler has vowed to crush Boko Haram, whose quest for a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria has left at least 15,000 dead and more than 1.5 million homeless since 2009.

“There are thousands more women and girls, and men and boys, who have been abducted by Boko Haram,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa director for research and advocacy about the work that still needs to be done.

Understandably the military and the government are taking great care to ensure the freed captives are integrated back into their families and society and are given the proper recovery they need. Many of these girls were forced to become sex slaves, they were malnourished, and subject to forced labor and abuse by the hands of these terrorists.

Defence spokesman, Gen Chris Olukolade said in a statement they will be releasing more details about those freed in due time, but it sounds like this is an ongoing operation and we are just thrilled to hear some positive news from Nigeria.

“Whoever they may be, the important thing is that Nigerians held captive under very severe and inhuman conditions have been freed by our gallant troops,” he said.

It is not just about rescuing the girls, but also taking down another terrorist group who seek to crush and oppress particularly women and girls for something as basic as getting an education. The most famous instance of this scenario is of course Pakistani teen Malala Yousafzai who was shot in the head by the Taliban when she was 14 for advocating a girl’s right to get educated. She has since recovered, gone on to speak at the United Nations on behalf of girls all around the world who are struggling to get educated, and become the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

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In a somewhat coincidental turn of events, the same week we heard the news of the Nigerian Military rescuing girls and women from Boko Haram, the news of a Pakistani anti-terrorism court sentencing Malala’s attackers was also released.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed the attack, and 10 men were sentenced to prison for 25 years each. It is a powerful reminder that in the midst of a dire situation, we cannot lose hope for justice.

When the Chibok Elementary girls were kidnapped and being transported to the Boko Haram stronghold, a number of girls managed to escape and hide out in the forest safely, until they were able to find their way back to their families. One of those girls has now traveled to the US to speak about her ordeal to Congress in Washington D.C.

Saa (not her real name) shared her experience in a blog post for Girl Rising on the one year anniversary of the kidnapping as a response to many people who have been asking her how they can help.

She describes being woken in the middle of the night by one of her fellow students who heard gunfire in the distance.

“We then saw men in military uniform and thought they were soldiers there to protect us. The men gathered us together and asked us questions: what we were doing there, why we were not married, why we were in school. We knew then that it was Boko Haram,” writes Saa.

Once she and all the other girls were herded on the back of trucks, she talks about contemplating jumping off, despite being told by the terrorists they would shoot them if they tried to escape.

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“Boko Haram told us they would shoot us if we tried to escape but I told my friend that I would rather die and let my parents have a corpse to bury than for me to go with Boko Haram. I had to find a way to get home no matter what. We waited until there was more space between the truck and car behind us. I jumped and hid in the forest. Then my friend jumped but she injured her leg in the fall. She couldn’t walk so I helped carry her. When I got tired she crawled on her tummy. We sat under a tree. I told her: don’t cry. God will help us. He will help us find a way home.”

Since she escaped, Saa received a scholarship to study overseas, but says her family continued to be terrorized in her absence. Two of her uncles were killed by Boko Haram, her mother has become severely ill from having to hide out in the forest for so long, and her baby niece died from also not having the care she needed in the forest. It is heart-wrenching to read an ordeal like this, but it is also extremely important.

It is the personal stories and desperate pleas from families that deserve a greater voice worldwide in the hope that Nigeria’s government and the military, as well as activist groups around the world will not stop fighting for those who deserve the chance at living a normal, free life.

We remain hopeful the rest of the Chibok elementary girls will be rescued and we vow to continue using our platform to share these important news stories.

To get a more in-depth look at what the Nigerian military is doing to combat Boko Haram, take a look at this special Vice News report which saw one of their ex-US Military reporters become the only journalist in the world to embed with the Nigerians as they battle this terrorist group in Northern Nigeria. Kaj Larsen also visited what remains of Chibok elementary and it is a chilling scene:


 

 

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