This Sunday most of the world celebrates Mother’s Day, a solitary day of the year when we are actually required to show appreciation to our mothers and thank them for everything they have done for us. For some, it is also a day of women’s empowerment – to acknowledge the housewives who are the bedrocks of a household or the mothers in the workforce who break their backs to put food on their families’ tables.
Sadly however, not everyone will have a ‘happy’ Mother’s Day. Especially not for the mothers of 223 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok, Nigeria.
On the night of the 14th of April, Islamic militants laid siege to a girls’ school in the West African nation. They shot several soldiers stationed in the school and abducted more than 250 students, hauling them into trucks and driving them into the unknown. Fortunately, about 50 of those girls managed to escape and unsurprisingly revealed the identity of the perpetrators.
It was none other than the extremist Islamist group Boko Haram, whose name is literally translated to mean “Western education is forbidden”.
The group’s agenda is fueled by bitter resentment of what it perceives as “Westernization” of Africa, and the “injustices” of the West against Muslim culture. It isn’t the first time the group has ran its’ mouth over Western values, they have long expressed their aim to establish a ‘pure’ Muslim state governed by strict sharia interpretation in Nigeria and other nations in Africa.
Among the Western values which the group passionately hates is women’s rights to an education. It is not the first time we have heard of an extremist Islamist group targeting women’s education: Taliban militants poisoned gas a girls school in Afghanistan in 2013 and the spotlight last year was on a 16-year old women’s rights advocate in the name of Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the face by terrorists for her activism.
The rationale for this extremist belief apparently, is that women have a role in society which is only to become good wives to their husbands. No empowerment, no rights, no place anywhere else in society. Just like the middle ages they would say.
However, the middle ages have long passed and it is now the 21st century. A time when women deserve equal footing in society and their rights protected by the state. And what Boko Haram believes about what their role in society should be is what is wrong in this situation.
Intelligence report gathered recently have concluded that the abducted girls are forced to marry militants, while the rest are sold off to slave markets. At first that information seemed to barbaric and gruesome to possibly have any truth to it, but it was confirmed by the group itself with its’ leader speaking on video: “Allah instructed me to sell them. I will carry out his instructions.”
He finished by stating: “Slavery is allowed in my religion, and I shall capture people and make them slaves.”
You would expect that kind of rhetoric to be taken from history books or from a fictional war movie, unfortunately Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau made that statement in 2014.
As troublesome as it may sound that girls can still be targeted and be punished for simply exercising their basic rights to have an education, seek employment or to wear what ever clothing they wish in this present day, what’s more worrying is the response that the international community has on this.
It took the United States government three weeks to make a comment about the attacks. And one of the first course of action to have come out of the White House is the First Lady appearing in a photo holding a sign with a Twitter hashtag on it. The move is apparently to start an online campaign to bring the girls back.
Who knew these backward-minded militants who live in the dark ages had Twitter accounts?
In all seriousness, the United States government have made a name for themselves putting boots on the ground when diplomatic discourse could have been used. Now they have a situation where ground presence may be essential, and then they get cold feet?
The Nigerian military is ill-equipped, a fact admitted by the country itself. Social and economic woes already produce a heavy burden on the shoulders of their government, a conflict is the last thing this country needs. The military powers of the globe did not hesitate to intervene in Bosnia or in Kuwait during their respective crisis – where is the help in Nigeria’s time of need?
Ironically, if there were times when Western help was most needed it was when they were absent. Just last month we commemorated twenty years since the Rwandan Genocide, when hundreds of thousands of Tutsis were slaughtered for being a different ethnic group than the majority of the population. This was an incident the United Nations failed to stop, an event where the United States and its’ allies were absent.
Their absence proved costly and left a dark moment in the history of the world.
Today we look at more than two hundred schoolchildren in the hands of blood-thirsty terrorists who show no shame in their plans of enslaving them. And the worst part is the world seems to be making another Rwanda happen by just tuning into the news waiting for it to resolve itself.
The lives of these schoolgirls are in peril, the nations of the world who boast of power and influence need to use their abilities to ensure that they return safely and these terrorists made incapable of launching similar attacks. It’s hard to think of a better mother’s day gift than to ensure the safety of their daughters and help them return home.
We need more than just a hashtag on Twitter to make that happen.