Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolgirls

Perhaps as many as 234 schoolgirls in Nigeria were recently kidnapped by Boko Haram:

The kidnappings are believed to have been carried out by Nigeria's extremist rebels, known as Boko Haram. Boko Haram — which means "Western education is sinful" — is violently campaigning to establish an Islamic Shariah state in Nigeria, whose 170 million people are about half Muslim and half Christian.
Boko Haram has been abducting some girls and young women in attacks on schools, villages and towns but last week's mass kidnapping is unprecedented. The extremists use the young women as porters, cooks and sex slaves, according to Nigerian officials.

Some of girls managed to escape, but most are still missing.  Let us hope all them will be found soon and in good health.

Boko Haram bases its terrorism on religion.  This article argues that it has shifted its policies to the question of gender during the last year or so.   But in any case, the goal of establishing Shariah law is linked with the goal of limiting girls' and women's choices.

Boko Haram has killed its male prisoners in the past but spared its female prisoners:

Part of the reason the military is loath to respond mightily may be because the girls who are kidnapped are raped, forced into servitude -- but rarely killed.
In February, 29 college students in the northern Yobe province were killed after an attack authorities blamed on Boko Haram. All of them were males. The women were spared.
In other instances, kidnapped girls were later rescued while working on farms. Many were pregnant or had babies -- the result of rape.
These choices may reflect Boko Haram's ideas of chivalry (though not kidnapping women and girls in the first place would seem more in tune with the idea of war being men's business), but they may also reflect the way gendered violence is used in warlike circumstances.  One leaves the women alive but impregnated by the enemy.  That way the women are viewed as "spoiled" and their children as belonging to the enemy.