Nigeria: Hundreds of Girls Kidnapped From School, Forced into Marriage and Slavery
Tuesday, May 6, 2014 11:20 AM

A Nigerian Islamist group has captured nearly 300 girls from a government-run secondary school in a remote northeastern Nigerian village and forced them into marriage and slavery. The girls, ages 15 to 18, were in the school to sit their final exams despite previous threats of terror attacks on the school. Allthough 53 of the girls managed to escape, another 276 remain captive. The Islamist group, called Boko Haram, has reportedly sold many of the girls into marriage to Boko Haram members in mass weddings. The group’s leader, Abubaker Shekau, issued a statement on May 5, calling the girls “slaves,” and said he would “sell them in the market.” Boko Haram, whose name translates to "Western education is sinful," opposes educating girls and wants to intimidate parents into keeping girls out of school. Boko Haram has stated that educating girls “is forbidden, women must go and marry.” Islamic customs in northern Nigeria also allow and encourage child marriage, which keeps many girls from attending or finishing school. 

The kidnappings have sparked domestic protests and outrage in Nigeria due to the failure of the government of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to capture the militants or secure the girls’ release. Several foreign governments, including the US government, have offered to help the Nigerians find the missing girls. US Secretary of State John Kerry called the kidnappings an "unconscionable crime." However, many believe the girls have already been moved into neighboring countries, including Chad and Cameroon. Boko Haram reportedly attacked another village on May 5 or 6, and kidnapped an additional 8 girls, some as young as eight years old. 

Compiled from: Mark, Monica, Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnap eight girls from village in Nigeria, The Guardian (May 6, 2014); Nossiter, Adam, Nigerian Islamist Leader Threatens to Sell Kidnapped Girls, The New York Times (May 5, 2014); Nigerian president urges safe return of kidnapped girls, The Guardian (May 4, 2014); Mark, Monica, Kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls taken as brides by militants, relatives told, The Guardian (April 29, 2014).