While our biggest concerns in middle school involve trips to the orthodontist and finding dance partners during slow songs at MS parties, young girls in Nigeria are targeted by Boko Haram and forced into extreme hardship. Several of these girls managed to escape and bravely share their stories.
Boko Haram is a terrorist organization that has been responsible for wreaking havoc throughout communities in Nigeria. Tens of thousands of people have been killed as a result of their actions. One of the most atrocious activities they partake in involves stripping children from their families and holding them hostage, later strapping them to suicide bombs with the promise of entering “the happiest place they can imagine” (New York Times). These girls are left feeling hopeless and terrified as they are instructed to enter communal spaces such as mosques or cities and injure both themselves and innocent victims around them. According to Unicef, more than 110 children have been used as suicide bombers in 2017 alone (New York Times).
Several girls placed in this dangerous situation found ways to escape their fate. One girl, Aisha, was approached by Boko Haram militants who forcibly tied a bomb around her waist. She was instructed to detonate this bomb within a set of military barracks. She weighed her limited options, considering walking away towards an isolated spot to sacrifice her own life to prevent the loss of others. She instead decided to approach soldiers milling throughout the barracks and request their assistance in dismounting the bomb tied around her. After initial skepticism and reluctance from the soldiers, they caved to her request and saved her life and countless others. Aisha’s story is similar to many other girls who bravely defied their orders from Boko Haram.
Boko Haram has created a culture where civilians fear for their safety upon seeing covered women and girls. The girls who are strapped to suicide bombs blend into the crowd as “most have painted nails” and “headscarves covered patterned or sparkly dresses and braided hair” (New York Times). Many describe a general uneasiness when seeing women and girls covered in their religious attire. This makes it even more difficult for those attempting to escape from the tight grips of terrorists. Even though girls are innocent and claim to be so, it is difficult for authorities to determine their true intentions, as there have been instances where girls do fulfill the requests of Boko Haram. Many also fear that they will bring shame to their families and will be rejected if they request for their help, causing many girls to hide their involvement further.
Although several girls have managed to stand up to Boko Haram aggressors, the overarching terror that has been established continues to spread rampantly throughout Nigeria. It is reported that suicide bombings have in fact increased in recent months, as Boko Haram has taken the upper hand against retaliation forces. Although this may appear bleak, a continuation of the bravery already displayed by some who have stood up to the oppression forced onto Nigerian society by Boko Haram can result in change.
As we transition into a new year, perhaps its beginning will be accompanied by a decrease in the extent of terrorism. This can begin with a mounting of singular actions of standing up to oppression, such as the escaped suicide bombers.