• Gerald A. Neher

    Before the Terror

    We Built a School in Boko Haram’s Land

    When Gerald and Lois Neher arrived in tiny Chibok, Nigeria, girls didn’t go to school. The couple’s work helped the first girls attend—50 years before terrorists abducted 270.

    The very opposite of terrorists arrived in Chibok more than a half-century before the world came to know this remote Nigerian village as the place where maniacal members of Boko Haram kidnapped more than 270 girls and burned down their school.

    While the terrorist group struck in recent days intending only evil, Gerald and Lois Neher of Kansas came to Chibok in 1954 with the purpose of doing as much good as they were able. They helped make it possible for girls to attend school there in the first place.

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  • MOTHER’S DAY

    Forgotten Mothers

    On Mother’s Day don’t just grieve for the heartbroken moms in Nigeria, spare a thought for mothers all over the world whose daughters have been taken from them.

    It took not just the mass kidnapping but the grinning video upload of Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, to dramatize what the girls of Nigeria’s impoverished north are up against when they try to get an education. Jiggling his leg and hardly able to contain his amusement, he told the world, “I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.”

    Allahu Akbar, Mr. Shekau. This woman ain’t buying. Your vengeful concept of God will not put the clock back. Girls, as Malala proved in Pakistan, are fighting more and more to get the education they deserve, and when and where they do they not only transform their own lives but the societies held back for centuries by poverty, folklore and ignorance.

    That's why their emancipation is such a threat to cruel patriarchal power. In the last 13 years at least 3.2 million more Afghan girls have got an education and 300 women are now running for office. The Taliban knows they have more to fear from an educated girl than an American drone.

    It was ironic happenstance that the Nigerian outrage took place during the World Economic Forum in Abuja, meant to promote the spectacularly underperforming giant of Africa. The inaptly named president Goodluck Jonathan, cavalier in his showboating hat, is so incompetent and narcissistic he likes to pretend the mostly Muslim north is another country dedicated to spreading false rumors to unseat him in the next election. Instead he found the news filled not with Nigeria’s surging business prospects in the south as he had planned but the miserable disenfranchisement of the North where fewer than 20 percent of girls are taught to read and write and where none of the profit from the fanfared oil economy ever sees the light of day.

    The terror cult’s murderous leader smirkingly told us he believes girls should be “married out at 9". It is not marriage when a girl is 9, Mr. Shekau. It is slavery and rape.

    There are a multitude of mothers in the world who have a daughter who is stolen, or who are stolen daughters themselves.

    Behind every statistic is a ruined female life. There are 4.5 million in sex slavery, 98% of whom are women or girls. There are 1,000 girls’ schools in Afghanistan that have been attacked, and at least another 900 in Pakistan, in what is nothing less than a Taliban war on women. There are an estimated 64 million girls whose culture enforces that they leave their mothers’ home to become child brides. There are an estimated 160 million “disappeared” girls who should exist, aborted before birth to prevent the cost of a dowry, or left out to die afterwards. That's 160 million mothers who will never exist.

    On Mother’s Day grieve not just for the heartbroken Nigerian moms who wait for news from the forests, but all the other mothers of stolen daughters we rarely hear about unless the victims are white, American and with stories that are cable-ready....

    * The mother of Hyam, a 23-year-old Palestinian, who was murdered at the hands of her father and brother at dawn on March 8, under the pretext of a so-called honor killing. “She was my eldest daughter and the sweetest of them all. May God avenge her father and brother,” her mother, Souad, told al-Monitor.

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  • Philip Ojisua/AFP/Getty

    Abuja Diary

    Boko Loco: A View From Nigeria

    ABUJA, Nigeria — On April 14th, more than 250 Nigerian girls were kidnapped from their dormitories at the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, a sleepy rural town in the Northern state of Borno.  Boko Haram, an extremist Muslim group which has terrorized Nigeria since the mid-2000s, has claimed responsibility for the abductions.  As of now, they have no plans to return the girls.  In fact, in a video obtained by Agence France-Presse, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said that the victims will be sold.  “By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace,” Shekau declared.  “Allah says I should sell.  He commands me to sell.” Rumor has that some of the girls have already been sold into “marriage” to men in neighboring countries for as little as $12.

    In recent weeks, American news outlets had been so preoccupied with a missing plane, a racist basketball team owner and a crack-smoking Canadian mayor that little—if anything—was reported about these missing girls.  But thankfully, spurred in large part by social media, the world is finally addressing this atrocity.  The hashtag #BringBackOurGirls has been trending globally, with everyone from Angelina Jolie to First Lady Michelle Obama using Twitter to urge for the students’ safe return.  Secretary of State John Kerry told The New York Times that the U.S. is pushing Nigerian authorities to do more.  He called the abductions “not just an act of terrorism.  It’s a massive human-trafficking moment and grotesque.” Protests have taken place in Abuja, London, Washington D.C. and Manhattan.  More are scheduled to be held in the coming weeks.  And today it was announced that the U.S. will send a team of military experts to Nigeria to help search for the missing girls.

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  • Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

    Failed to Act

    Nigeria Knew Girls Would Be Kidnapped

    At least four hours before hundreds of girls were snatched from a boarding school, Nigerian authorities were aware of Boko Haram’s plans—and yet did nothing, says Amnesty International.

    The Nigerian authorities were warned in advance that the militant group Boko Haram was en route to snatch more than 250 schoolgirls and failed to prevent the raid, according to Amnesty International.

    The human rights organization said it had independently verified evidence that the Nigerian security forces had more than four hours’ warning that the attack was imminent and yet failed to mount an adequate defense of the boarding school in northern Nigeria.

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  • Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

    Up to Speed: Nigeria’s Kidnapping Crisis

    A violent abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria has shocked the world. Haven’t been paying attention until now? Here’s what you need to know.

    Hundreds of schoolgirls are missing and thousands of civilians have been killed in a lawless part of northeastern Nigeria where the militant group Boko Haram rules with impunity. As Africa’s largest economy welcomes the World Economic Forum, Nigeria’s government is facing increased scrutiny for its mismanagement of the abductions. Here’s what you need to know about what’s happening.

    How did this recent crisis begin?

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  • Woman holding signs take part in a protest demanding the release of abducted secondary school girls from the remote village of Chibok, in Lagos May 5, 2014. (Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters)

    The Lost Girls

    The Stolen Schoolgirls Scandal

    After Boko Haram abducted and enslaved hundreds of girls, the Nigerian government tried to pretend there was no problem. A hashtag is convincing it otherwise.

    Three weeks after Islamist militants from the rebel group Boko Haram took 276 schoolgirls from their school in the restive northeast of Nigeria and drove them into the forests bordering Cameroon, the world is mobilizing to demand answers. What has become of the teenagers? Why has the Nigerian government failed to rescue them? Why has it lied? What is it trying to hide? The answer appears to be its own ineptitude.

    On Monday, a video hit the Web showing the leader of Boko Haram taking responsibility for the abductions and pledging to sell the girls as wives, of a sort, to the highest bidder. “They are slaves and I will sell them because I have the market to sell them,” Abubakar Shekau told the camera. The girls, 223 of whom are still missing, reportedly have been traded for about $12 apiece. At least two are said to have died.

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  • Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

    bring them back

    FBI Sent to Find Missing Nigerian Girls

    Some 200 are captive and will be sold.

    Attorney General Eric Holder says he'll send FBI agents into Nigeria to aid in the rescue of more than 200 Nigerian girls being held hostage by terror group Boko Haram. John Kerry also proclaimed his support, saying, "we will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes." Earlier Monday, self-proclaimed Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a video that he will sell hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian girls. “I abducted your girls,” he said. "I will sell them in the market, by Allah.” Some of the girls have been reportedly sold as brides for as little as $12 in neighboring Chad and Cameroon. It's unclear if Nigeria will accept the offer of U.S. assistance.

    Read it at Huffington Post
  • STR/AFP/Getty

    Terrorists

    Boko Haram’s Sick Hatred of Girls

    The abduction of 200 female students from northern Nigeria was not the first attack on girls’ education by the al Qaeda-linked group—and it won’t be the last.

    The numbers were shocking: “Nigerian Unrest: Gunmen abduct ‘about 100 schoolgirls’” headlined the BBC after guerrillas believed to belong to the al Qaeda-allied group Boko Haram attacked a boarding school late Monday in the Nigerian state of Borno. But this is not the first time that these radical Islamist rebels have abducted girls en masse, and it almost certainly will not be the last.

    In mid-February, according to local press reports, about 400 members of the group, some of them wearing military uniforms and traveling in military-style trucks, attacked the town of Konduga, also in Borno state, near the borders of Cameroon, Chad and Niger. They murdered 51 people and carried away 20 young women.

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  • PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

    Congrats

    Chimamanda Adichie: Literary Lagos

    The new winner of the National Book Critics Circle award for fiction on her literary city and how it inspires her writing.

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been a cornerstone of both Nigerian and American literature in recent years. Her debut novel, Half of a Yellow Sun was followed by a MacArthur Fellowship in 2008 and her latest, Americanah, which describes a young couple reintegrating back into Nigerian life after an American education has just won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.

    Growing up in a quiet area of Enugu with her Igbo family—an ethnicity and language that many of her characters share—Adichie left Nigeria to study in the U.S. at the age of 19 and now spends half a year in each country, teaching creative writing at the University of Lagos. She’s also penned a collection of short stories, as well as essays on a variety of political and social issues, (her Ted Talk “We Should all be Feminists” was sampled by Beyoncé) which have led to her publication in over 30 languages.  

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  • Author Chinelo Okparanta explores the plight of young woman through a series of short stories in "Happiness, Like Water."

    Chinelo Okparanta

    Champion of the Stifled

    The Nigerian-born Chinelo Okparanta’s debut collection introduces the world to a defender of young women who are oppressed and silenced.

    Scheming mothers and selfish husbands, fathers, and brothers domineer over the sensitive women of Happiness, Like Water, Nigerian-born Chinelo Okparanta’s debut short-story collection. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Okparanta was named one of Granta’s six New Voices in 2012. It’s a fitting honor: the unsparing stories of Happiness, Like Water show Okparanta to be a champion of young, frequently misunderstood female protagonists whose voices are too often stifled. In many of these tales, Okparanta’s women struggle to control their fate in the face of oppressive circumstances.‬

    Nowhere is this illustrated more clearly than in “Wahala!” a story in which a young woman’s inability to conceive turns her husband and mother into co-conspirators. They bring Ezinne to a local dibia (healer) for a session with oils and elixirs and then goad her into hosting a big dinner to ward off any residual “negative energy.” It’s all a prelude to what Nneka and her son-in-law Chibuzo hope will be a swift impregnation. “What with all the safety measures having been taken—the healing and then precautionary dinner—he could see no reason why she wouldn’t be eager,” Chibuzo reasons before forcing himself upon his wife that very night. As he does so, his mother-in-law listens to Ezinne’s moans of pain outside their bedroom door with a smile. It’s a horrifying final image—one presaged by the story’s title, which summons a Nigerian pidgin expression meaning “trouble.”

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  • MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty

    TOO YOUNG

    No Minimum Age for Marriage?

    Petition aims to strike down law in Nigeria.

    In July, Nigerian legislators voted on a marriage amendment in the country’s Constitution concerning a clause stating that “any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.” In a second vote, a majority wasn’t reached after some held that it was discriminatory of Islamic law. A Change.org petition for a minimum-age marriage law currently has more than 64,000 signatures, and it needs 10,000 more. “Simply put, the law as it stands today, provides no protection for a minor being subjected to sexual intercourse regardless of age, as long as the same is done within the boundaries of marriage, even though she may not have the capacity to understand or appreciate the nature of the marriage contract,” according to the petition. More than 12,000 cases of vesicovaginal fistula linked to child marriage have been reported in Nigeria, according to the petition.

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  • Emmanuel Wole/AFP/Getty

    Too Young

    Nigerian Senator Married 13-Year-Old

    Supports laws protecting child marriage.

    Nigerian Sen. Ahmed Yerima has been the driving force behind legislation supporting child marriage and blocking attempts to modernize the constitution of the country by treating married girls as adults—even if under the age of 18—and giving them the right to renounce citizenship. Yerima himself has taken a 13-year-old Egyptian bride (though he denies her age), using this law to technically bypass the illegality of such a marriage. Nigerians are now popularizing the hashtag #ChildNotBride on Twitter in protest of this exploitation and hypocrisy.

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