April 14 marks the ninth anniversary of the tragic abduction of nearly 300 school girls by the Nigerian Islamic terror group Boko Haram. Dozens of girls are still missing to this day.
Boko Haram is a jihadist terror group based in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno State. Since the early 2000s, the group has waged an Islamist insurgency across northern Nigeria and neighboring countries in an attempt to establish an Islamic caliphate in the region.
The group’s name loosely translates to “Western education is forbidden” and they have targeted schools as part of their campaign to eradicate anything considered “Western” culture from Nigeria, particularly Christianity. The Nigerian government has repeatedly claimed to have eradicated Boko Haram but, under outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari, authorities have simply switched to blaming the “Islamic State West Africa Province” (ISWAP) for Boko Haram activities. Boko Haram rebranded itself as ISWAP in 2015, pledging allegiance to now-dead Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Boko Haram gained international notoriety after kidnapping nearly 300 Chibok school girls in April 2014. The schoolgirls were regularly raped, witnessed murders, and were forced to commit murder themselves, according to some survivors who managed to escape their captivity.
More than half of the girls kidnapped were Christian, and some survivors have explained that Christians were treated especially harshly, International Christian Concern reported.
Some girls have escaped; a reported 103 victims were freed after negotiations between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram. The Nigerian government has paid the jihadist group $3.3 million as a ransom for the Chibok girls freed in negotiations, BBC reported last year.
As of October 2022, 96 of the abducted school girls remained missing, according to the Nigerian newspaper Vanguard. Last July, the Nigerian army reported finding two more of Boko Haram’s victims eight years after their abduction.
Those two girls, Mary Dauda and Hauwa Joseph, detailed their journey to freedom after being held captive for eight years and forced to marry their terrorist kidnappers.
Dauda explained that her journey to freedom began when her terrorist husband “granted” her one week away from captivity to visit her family.
“I took excuse from Malam Ahmed (her terrorist husband) that I will be visiting my relative from Chibok in the town of Ngoshe and he granted me one week. That was when I began my journey to freedom,” she said.
On my way, I met an old man who promised to help me to escape. But he told me that it would not be possible in the afternoon and that we should wait until the sun had set. At about 8pm, he took me to Ngoshe town and asked me to pass the night in the outskirts of the town before proceeding the next morning. This was because I may be suspected to be a suicide bomber and would have been killed or fired at by the troops if I entered in the night. When the day broke, I reported myself to some soldiers where I was taken care of with my baby.
Joseph said she escaped from the terrorist camp in June when Nigerian army troops invaded their camp last June.
As Vanguard reported:
She said as people were running in the same direction where the sect members were hiding women and children, she took a separate route to escape from the terrorists’ camp. She said on her way, she met some of the insurgents who asked her where she was going, but she tricked them and told them that she was following some women to hide in the nearby forest.
“I slept under the tree with my child, then proceeded the next day until I arrived the road where I approached a military check point. Initially, the soldiers thought I was a suicide bomber, but when I explained how I escaped from the terrorists, they took me along with them,” Joseph explained.
Both of the rescued girls were nursing young children around 18 months at the time of their escape.
Last month, Pope Francis met with two young girls who escaped from Boko Haram to commemorate International Women’s Day.
As the Catholic News Agency detailed:
Sixteen-year-old Maryamu Joseph, who escaped from the Boko Haram in July after being held against her will for nine years, greeted the pope with Janada Marcus, also a victim of Boko Haram kidnapping, at the end of his general audience on March 8.
Both girls saw members of their families murdered by the Boko Haram. Marcus’ father was beheaded by a machete in front of her in 2018. Joseph saw her brother killed and cut into pieces in 2019.
“Right before my eyes, they took one of my siblings and killed him. They cut off his head, then his hands, legs, and stomach,” she said in a report published by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
“We must find the cure to heal this plague and not leave women alone,” the pope said.
As the abducted school girls grow older, so too do their family members. Chibok Girls’ Parents’ Association chairman Yakubu Nkeki announced that at least 38 of the school girls’ parents have died.
“We lost 38 parents in the first three years of this kidnapping,” Nkeki said. “The slightest illness can take their life due to high blood pressure. They are in so much pain, because they think too much.”
One of the parents told Open Doors local partners earlier this year that they want to be updated about their daughter’s status, even if she has passed away.
“Even if our girls have died, we want somebody to inform us. Because then we can finally give up hope,” one of the parents identified as Ishaya said.
“We are still hopeful as parents of these girls,” another parent identified as Yakubu said. “We haven’t lost hope at all. We have so much hope that, with continued prayer, one day we will see the remaining girls, just as we received the girls that have returned. We will receive them with joy.”