The onus is on politicians of all political and religious persuasions to take control of this situationby Noo Saro-Wiwa / May 20, 2014 / Leave a comment
The actress Salma Hayek joins the Twitter campaign calling for the release of the Nigerian school girls
Over a month ago, in April, Boko Haram militants conned their way into the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, northeastern Nigeria, and ordered its teenage pupils to board a convoy of trucks. More than 200 petrified girls were driven away into the night at gunpoint, their whereabouts still unknown. It is not the first incidence of female abduction in northern Nigeria by the Islamist terrorist group (a further eight people were subsequently abducted from Chibok in early May), but the fact that these men could kidnap so many individuals, at such ease, shocked a country already accustomed to their brutality.
The demographic of this Nigerian tragedy—teenage girls—ought to have marked it out from crises around the world. Had terrorists snatched 300 girls from the English boarding school I attended, the planet would have wobbled on its axis; rolling news would have saturated our minds with the faces and biographies of these flaxen-haired “bright hopes” whom “the world has lost…” Yet the crescendo of condemnation both within Nigeria and around the world was slow. Disgusted by an inert government response and agonised by impotency, the Nigerian public, and particularly its women, held protests in cities across the country, marching through the streets bearing banners adorned with the heart-wrenching message “Bring back our girls.”
This fuelled a social media storm with the now ubiquitous Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls trending around the world, and helping to push the story into the headlines. The tipping point was reached on 10th May when the US’s First Lady Michelle Obama used the weekly presidential radio address to describe her distress over the kidnapping, tweeting a photo of herself holding a placard bearing the hashtag.
The emergence of Boko Haram (loosely translated as “Western Education Is Forbidden”) is the product of a cultural-economic divide that began under British colonial rule. The authorities realised it was cheaper to administer northern Nigeria by leaving its Islamic power structure and culture intact. Missionary activity and western education was concentrated in the oil-rich south, a region that has held an economic advantage ever since. In a post-independence economy that has failed to diversify from oil, northeastern Nigeria remains impoverished, driving some young Muslims towards terrorism. Many of these men…