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.

* The mother of the 16-year-old Indian girl raped in Sonepat, Haryana, India who set herself ablaze out of shame.

* The mother of 23-year-old Pakistani lawyer Fizza Malik, killed by militants on her first day in court in Islamabad in March. Her tearful mother told the BBC, “She used to love Pakistan so much that she never wanted to settle abroad, but who knew her own country will become her killer?”* The mother of the 13-year-old Malian girl abducted raped and killed by Tuaregs after her parents declined the equivalent of $13 as a bride price.

Now that the abducted Nigerian school girls are likely dispersed across the borders into Cameroon, what will their damaged lives be if they are ever rescued, let alone if they are not? The inspiring Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe founded Saint Monica Girls’ Tailoring Center in nearby Uganda as a refuge to teach new skills to girls who have been brutalized as sex slaves by another delusional medieval monster, Joseph Kony, and his Lord's Resistance Army. She told me this week about the acute psychological and sometimes physical pain the girls in her shelter endure: “If they’re left alone, they can’t love their children because they are born from their captors. I have to teach them life has not stopped. I have to give them time to cry.”Will these girls emerge from the heart of darkness, from the vise of an evil so astonishing that even al Qaeda has been forced to distance itself from it? We have to believe that they will. We are all they have, and if we give up hope, we will only strengthen the monsters that did this. And if that happens, the monsters will be back, for more and more and more girls.