An unspecified number of the schoolgirls kidnapped from their final exams in Nigeria have been forcibly married to strangers, but Boko Haram might peacefully release the rest. This is painfully low on confirmed facts, but at least it's not being reported that they're dead.
Mothers of the kidnapped daughters demonstrate for their return. Photography credit: AP Photo/ Gbemiga Olamikan
The military has been frustratingly reluctant to do anything for a bunch of poor girls in the north, which isn't getting the girls back, but might be keeping them alive. Boko Haram typically murders its hostages once the military attempts to intervene. This has left Boko Haram with over 200 teenage girls to hide in the jungle while keeping them out of their main camp. They admit to forcibly converting and just-as-forcefully marrying off an unspecified number of the girls, but according to an intermediary for an anonymous negotiator, are apparently open to giving back the rest before growing public pressure forces a change in the status quo. Is this marry off most and return a handful, or marry off a handful and most, I don't know.
Right now, the status quo works really, really well for Boko Haram. They get to terrorize the north, kidnapping, murdering, and wrecking havoc, and the Nigerian government contents itself with the more-manageable south. A peaceful solution would humiliate the military, already smarting from their, "We saved everyone!" being revealed as utter bullshit, while their classic move of murdering the hostages would play extremely poorly to an already-angry public. While stealing girls at gunpoint from their exams is totally normal for Boko Haram, they might be slowly realizing that kidnapping a few hundred children is so reprehensible that their unspecified rich sponsors are embarrassed enough to consider cutting off the supply of shiny new weaponry, piss off the citizens enough to start another civil war, or draw international intervention into squashing their reign of terror. Or maybe they just ran out of men who want kidnapped child-brides for sex-slavery.
This shit is still fucked up beyond all reason, but I'm starting to feel hopeful that the more eyes are staring at Boko Haram, the more likely they are to bring this to a peaceful, semi-kinda-okay resolution, in the hope that the world will go back to ignoring their atrocities. So, what's the best way to help right now? Keep raising awareness. Keep asking local news to cover the story. Keep talking about it in real life, or talk about it online using the helpthegirls and bringbackourdaughters hashtags. Make it very, very clear that the world is watching.
Update 4 May: the Nigerian government confirms that negotiations are happening. The negotiator reports that 3 of the girls died, and 18 are sick.
Update 5 May: The leader of Boko Haram bragged about selling the girls.
Update 6 May: More girls were kidnapped, this time 12 to 15 year olds snatched from their homes. The only silver of silver lining in this is that Boko Haram isn't an ignored evil in a dark shadow anymore, but trapped in a spotlight of global outrage that might actually start dealing with the problem.