Saratu’s father fainted

I read the Guardian article again (I read it the first time a few days ago when I did a post about it) and I don’t think the Guardian is being euphemistic here. The way the story is set up, the news that the girls “are being shared out as wives among the Boko Haram militants” was taken very hard – the news was worse than they were hoping, not better. I assumed that was because 1. it confirmed they were being raped (but there can’t have been much doubt of that in any case) and 2. it meant they were all the more firmly trapped.

Let’s look at it again.

For two weeks, retired teacher Samson Dawah prayed for news of his niece Saratu, who was among more than 230 schoolgirls snatched by Boko Haram militants in the north-eastern Nigerian village of Chibok. Then on Monday the agonising silence was broken.

When Dawah called together his extended family members to give an update, he asked that the most elderly not attend, fearing they would not be able to cope with what he had to say. “We have heard from members of the forest community where they took the girls. They said there had been mass marriages and the girls are being shared out as wives among the Boko Haram militants,” Dawah told his relatives.

Saratu’s father fainted; he has since been in hospital. The women of the family have barely eaten. “My wife keeps asking me, why isn’t the government deploying every means to find our children,” Dawah said.

See? The news was so bad he asked the oldest relatives to stay away, lest it break them. Saratu’s father fainted, and was hospitalized. The women aren’t eating. The news that there had been mass marriages was taken very hard. It wasn’t better news than they’d hoped, it was worse. I don’t take the Guardian to be prettying things up here.

Reports of the mass marriage came from a group that meets at dawn each day not far from the charred remains of the school. The ragtag gathering of fathers, uncles, cousins and nephews pool money for fuel before venturing unarmed into the thick forest, or into border towns that the militants have terrorised for months.

Again, I don’t take that to be “they’ve been married” as a euphemism for “they’re being raped” but a report of what has been reported.

On Sunday, the searchers were told that the students had been divided into at least three groups, according to farmers and villagers who had seen truckloads of girls moving around the area. One farmer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the insurgents had paid leaders dowries and fired celebratory gunshots for several minutes after conducting mass wedding ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s unbearable. Our wives have grown bitter and cry all day. The abduction of our children and the news of them being married off is like hearing of the return of the slave trade,” said Yakubu Ubalala, whose 17- and 18-year-old daughters Kulu and Maimuna are among the disappeared.

That’s not prettied up. It’s awful. They’ve been handed out into formal official slavery via marriage. It’s terrible news, and the Guardian presents it as such.

The kidnappings have sparked debate on whether foreign intervention could help stabilise Nigeria. Officials have long ruled out such a move.

The kidnappings, you see, which have resulted in forced unwanted rapey “marriages.” I don’t see the Guardian as saying anything different.


  1. Blanche Quizno says

    Back in the day, in the movies, the villain would threaten to *marry* the woman. Look at Flash Gordon – Emperor Ming the Merciless plots to *marry* Dale Arden or in the Lemony Snicket “A Series of Unfortunate Events” tale in which Evil Uncle Ludwig connives to marry the girl whose parents were killed. In Westerns, the Snidely Whiplash who is seeking to seize the bereaved daughter’s land after her father’s murder, or to take over the family business from its heiress, would not just kill her and take it. He wouldn’t just *rape* her. No, it was far more dastardly to *MARRY* her, because then, she is *OBLIGATED* to submit to his every advance! He gets *EVERYTHING* when he MARRIES her! And there’s no way for her to get out of it, you see.

    It appears Boko Haram has this old-timey view of marriage, which was decidedly slavery-istic and chattel-tastic. They need to be brought into the modern world. And to modern justice, even though that’s too good for them.

  2. Erp says

    A very old-fashioned, very nasty crime (Sabine women, Judges 21 [women of Shiloh and Jabesh-Gilead) which in cultures where a ‘woman’s honor’ [meaning virgin before marriage] is important, the woman (and her family if they were still living ) often have little social choice but to accept. Even when (one hopes) these young women are rescued, they won’t be able to get safe abortions if they want one (abortion is illegal in Nigeria except to save the mother’s life [illegal and therefore almost always unsafe abortions are common which is why Nigeria has one of the highest maternal death rates in the world]).[1] They also will have to face the social stigma of what happened.


  3. arthur says

    Nick Cohen’s article about this manages exploit the episode, turning out another rant against “the Liberal press” and his pet bogeyman “The Left”. Declaring that they have, yet again, failed in some fashion, despite providing no evidence to support his claim. Where are these left wing journals?

    Damn lefties. Supported the Vietcong, Saddam, the commies. Now these monsters?

  4. Bernard Bumner says

    I think Cohen may somewhat overstate his point, but nonetheless he does have a point to make.

    The media has devoted great space and energy to reporting the nearly contemporary Korean Ferry tragedy, but much less has been reported about the ongoing terror being inflicted on these hundreds of Nigerian children. Where it has been reported, it has often been reported as simply a kidnapping, and something which is remote and beyond the influence of the Western world.

    Cohen’s piece is a call to metaphorical arms – he clearly identifies that the insular self-interest of conservatives will prevent them from acting, but cannot comprehend the lack of activity by the Left.

    I think he has a point – there should have been much more widespread anger (at least) about this situation. The media has largely failed to give due prominence to either the initial abductions, or to the subsequent enslavement of these girls and young women. There has been very little wider coverage of the campaign of terror by Boku Haram, and particularly the targeting of women and education.

    If Cohen misidentifies the cause, at least he is kicking up a stink about the problem.

  5. Bernard Bumner says

    Boko Haram April 14 = 26,100 News results on Google
    Korean Ferry April 16 = 99,300 News results on Google

    The disparity in reporting is deeply troubling, and inadequate reporting is ultimately succour to Boko Haram.

  6. kbplayer says

    “Unlike other world disasters, there isn’t round-the-clock coverage of the realities in Borno. This is partly due to the fact that it has been under a state of emergency rule and the airport was shut down after an attack by Boko Haram a few months ago. This has made it very difficult for citizens and journalists to get in or out of Borno, and the flow of information relies mostly on phone calls and SMS messages. This has also aided the government in spreading lies and misinformation.”

  7. arthur says

    Bernard, I’ve been following this in the newspapers and on the BBC for weeks, Guardian, Independent, Newsnight etc, and conversing with my Nigerian colleagues about the unfolding events as they happen. I haven’t seen any kind of censorship about this at all.

    I keep hearing Cohen denounce “The Left” for various perceived crimes.

    Who? Which Left?

    Just seems lazy to me, Rush Limbaugh lazy. Peter Hitchens lazy.

  8. Bernard Bumner says

    Arthur, you’ve been following a different BBC than me, in that case. The story has been reported. Barely.

    The Guardian was exceptional, but not spectacular.

    As I say, compare and contrast the response to the tragic – but ultimately futile – plight of the Korean Ferry disaster victims, with that of the abduction of a similar number of children by Boko Haram. The response was muted. Not censored – simply not loud enough, given the magnitude of what was occurring.

    My perception is that Cohen denounces the response of the Left simply because he believes that they should be the natural advocates but he thinks that their reaction has been insufficient.

    On the 23rd April Anne Perkins also asked in the Guardian, 200 girls are missing in Nigeria – so why doesn’t anybody care?. The story has gathered some momentum since.

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