I have been following this terrible story out of Nigeria where the Islamist militant group Boko Haram that is so ruthless and reactionary that they make even the Taliban look progressive, has kidnapped an estimated 234 girls from a boarding school three weeks ago and taken them into the jungles and their fate remains unknown. Farouk Chothia gives some background on the group.
Although the group has not claimed responsibility and in previous attacks have avoided harming women, it is strongly suspected of being behind the attacks. Michelle Dean has put together a useful fact sheet about what we know, much of it based on the accounts of about forty girls who escaped. But we do not know much.
The girls are believed to have been taken into Sambisa forest. The forest, reportedly quite thick and swampy and containing a sizable wildlife population ranging from monkeys to elephants, is a Boko Haram stronghold. Escapees report that once there the girls were asked to cook for the insurgents. Bystanders in the general area say that the girls have now been split up and subjected to mass wedding ceremonies. Some say they have been taken out of Nigeria. Some also say the girls are now “sex slaves,” though that worry has been around from the time the girls disappeared, of course. The oft-reported rumor is they’re being auctioned off for the equivalent of $12 USD. No one has yet verified these reports with any degree of certainty.
As is often the case with groups like Boko Haram, this action may mark a tipping point. Despite their awful beliefs and tactics, they usually can claim some support from the local population without which they cannot survive. Initially they limit their attacks to government targets or those who are enemies of the local population. But when those do not have the required effect of enabling them to seize power, then they raise the stakes and at some point commit an act so egregious that they alienate practically everyone and that is usually the precursor to their downfall. This may be that triggering event.
But in the meantime, this appalling attack and the perilous fate of the girls has caused great anger and grief in the entire country, not just for their families.