Published on 14 Apr 2015 Sections ,

#BringBackOurGirls – one year on from kidnappings

Ceremonies are held to mark the anniversary of the kidnappings of 219 girls from a secondary school in Nigeria.

Girls and young women in Nigeria’s capital Abuja marched through the city to draw attention to their plight. Among them was Reverend Enoch Mark, whose daughter Monica was kidnapped.

He said his life had been turned upside down since she was taken. “We feel so bad, we feel so sad. My wife is under treatment,” he said. “We chew drugs like food now, we take drugs now more than the food or water we take since our daughter was abducted.”

#BringBackOurGirls

The campaign to free the girls has been boosted by the support of US First Lady Michelle Obama and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai – with supporters using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls on Twitter to highlight their disappearance.

But the 219 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram Islamists in Chibok in north eastern Nigeria remain in captivity.

Some 276 girls were initially seized when gunmen turned up at their school, but 57 managed to escaped. Little has been heard about the remaining 219, although there have been reported sightings.

BringBackOurGirls has published the names of the 219 Chibok girls, along with a composite photo of 60 of them. It has also tweeted pictures of Lugina Samuel and Lugwa Abuga, who are among the 219, but it has no information about them.

BringBackOurGirls told Channel 4 News that most of the girls were from very poor backgrounds, with parents “struggling to make ends meet”.

In total, more than 2,000 women and girls have been seized by Boko Haram militants since the start of 2014, according to an Amnesty International report published today, with captives forced to become sex slaves or soldiers.

Execution

The report, Our Job Is To Shoot, Slaughter And Kill: Boko Haram’s Reign Of Terror, also found evidence of regular conscription and systematic execution of men and boys, claiming the Muslim extremists have killed around 5,500 civilians since the start of last year.

Last year, Mausi Segum, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, interviewed 30 people who had been adbucted by Boko Haram, including 12 Chibok students who escaped.

Abuse

In a report published in October 2014, she wrote:”The women and girls told Human Rights Watch that for refusing to convert to Islam, they and many others they saw in the camps were subjected to physical and psychological abuse; forced labour; forced participation in military operations, including carrying ammunition or luring men into ambush; forced marriage to their captors; and sexual abuse, including rape.”

Most of the women were targeted because they were Christians, students, or both. The name Boko Haram means western education is forbidden.

“The victims appear to have been targeted either because of their presumed religious affiliation or for attending western-styled schools. Some of the victims were threatened with death if they refused to convert to Islam.”

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