In the northeastern part of the African country three weeks ago, the extremist group Boko Haram stole 329 school girls from their boarding school. These girls wanted an education so badly that, although their boarding school had been closed earlier to stave off kidnappings, they returned to take a final test.
And now as a result of a desire to improve themselves, the 270 or so girls who did not manage to escape are facing unimaginable brutality. Abubakar Shekau, the leader for Boko Haram, has called the girls “slaves” and has promised to sell them in the market.
Abduction and abuse of young girls have been considered despicable acts in the past, but it’s a tribute to human progress that now we regard such crimes as against all of humanity.
And it’s not just television images that bring these girls close. Houston is home to tens of thousands of Nigerian Americans who work hard every day and are members of this community, our extended family.
We share these Nigerian Americans’ grief at the tragedy taking place in their homeland. We are all outraged by the rumors that the girls are being sold for less than the price of pounded yams, pepper stew and coconut rice at one of the best Nigerian restaurants in town. And we deplore the Boko Haram’s misguided tactic to intimidate all girls in Nigeria from daring to get an education.
So far, the Nigerian government, notorious for corruption, has diddled around and accomplished absolutely nothing. Even last week, the fate of these young females in a country of more than 170 million seemed to be just another hopeless story.
But mothers and those who love mothers and daughters everywhere have turned out to be potent weapons against these girls’ captors. Yielding to the nationwide and global outcry, the U.S. administration on Tuesday agreed to send a team to Nigeria to aid in the effort to find and free the girls. The team will include military and law enforcement personnel with expertise in intelligence, investigations, hostage negotiating and victim assistance.
As Mother’s Day approaches, we celebrate not only our own mothers, but the concept of motherhood. That encompasses the Nigerian mothers whom we have never met but with whom we can all empathize. Mothers and those who stand by them will not be satisfied until these girls, our girls, are returned home.