Leah Sharibu, Christian Schoolgirl Abducted by Boko Haram 6 Years Ago, Turns 21 in Captivity

Leah Sharibu, one of the 110 girls Boko Haram kidnapped from their school in northeast
Nigerian Presidency

Nigerian Christians took the streets on Tuesday to protest their government’s incompetence in containing the threat of radical Islamist terrorism, marking the 21st birthday of Christian longtime Boko Haram captive Leah Sharibu.

Sharibu disappeared alongside about 110 other girls from Dapchi, Yobe state, Nigeria in February 2018, abducted by Boko Haram terrorists. She was 15 at the time. Boko Haram, a Sunni jihadist terrorist organization affiliated with the Islamic State, has specialized in committing mass abductions of young women and girls in the past decade. Boko Haram jihadists tend to target Christian schools, kidnapping girls and forcing them into sex slavery through “marriages” with jihadists.

The Dapchi abduction, targeting the town’s Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, was one of the largest in Nigeria of the past decade and was almost entirely resolved within months. By May 2018, the Boko Haram terrorists involved had released all the girls but one: Leah Sharibu, who fellow captives said after their release was not freed because she refused to convert to Islam.

“My daughter is alive, but they wouldn’t release her because she is a Christian,” Nathan Sharibu, Leah’s father, told USA Today in March 2018. “They told her they would release her if she converted, but she said she will never become a Muslim. I am very sad, but I am also overjoyed because my daughter did not denounce Christ.”

Christian organizations in Nigeria organized protests in the north of the country this week condemning the government of President Bola Tinubu for not just failing to free Sharibu, but doing little to protect Christian communities plagued by jihadist violence since his election victory in March 2023. Tinubu succeeded now-former President Mohammadu Buhari, a Fulani Muslim who presided over the dramatic growth of jihadist violence in the country, particularly by genocidal Fulani terrorists attacking Christians of other ethnic backgrounds. Buhari claimed the jihadist massacres and mass abductions of Christians were fueled by “climate change.”

The protesters convening on Sharibu’s birthday, which reportedly numbered in the hundreds in Kaduna state, issued a demand for Sharibu’s freedom alongside the freedom of the dozens of girls kept for years as “wives” by Boko Haram terrorists with little government intervention to save them. Local reports described protesters holding signs reading “Free Leah Sharibu and other abducted girls now” and “Education is not a crime,” among other slogans.

“We have all come out to commemorate the 21st birth of Leah Sharibu who has become the face of this campaign and many other campaigns for safe schoolchildren. We therefore want to wish her a happy birthday even in captivity,” Rev. Yunusa Nmadu, the leader of Christian Solidarity Worldwide Nigeria, said in an address to those convened, according to the local Osun Defender.

“Nigeria is ebbing out. Nigeria is dying. We are almost surrendering to insecurity and bandits, kidnappers and all sorts of evil people in our land. It is time to stop,” Nmadu warned.

“We voted you in for security but what we get is insecurity. Therefore, we asked and we spoke this time to the President of the country, Bola Tinubu. Please, up your game, and safe lives,” Nmadu urged.

Another speaker at the event, Braimoh Martins of Christian Solidarity Worldwide Nigeria, estimated that Boko Haram and Fulani terrorists are currently keeping holding 400 students hostage.

Sharibu’s parents issued a statement on Tuesday separately, marking the 21st birthday of their daughter through a spokesperson.

“We continue to urge the Nigerian government to please do the needful and ensure that Leah Sharibu is released from her captivity, her crime is that she boldly and courageously refused to deny her faith in Jesus Christ,” the statement from her parents read.

“We continue to call all to keep praying for Leah Sharibu to hold on to Faith and know that God will rescue her out of captivity,” the statement continued. “Leah wherever you are we wish you a Happy Birthday and ask that the manifest presence of the Lord God Almighty whom you honoured as such a young age will continue to abide and be with you. Please know that the world is waiting for you to be back into the arms of your parents.”

The parents noted that Buhari failed to free her and urged Tinubu not to allow her to continue missing.

Little concrete information on Sharibu’s fate has surfaced since the year she was abducted. In August 2018, six months after her abduction, Boko Haram terrorists released an audio tape they claimed was a plea from Sharibu herself. Her parents said the voice did sound like their daughter, but authorities never confirmed if the tape was, in fact, of Sharibu.

“I am calling on the government and people of goodwill to intervene to get me out of my current situation.,” the message, in the Hausa language, read. “I also plead to the members of the public to help my mother, my father, my younger brother and relatives. Kindly help me out of my predicament. I am begging you to treat me with compassion, I am calling on the government, particularly, the President to pity me and get me out of this serious situation. Thank you.”

“I thought she might have been killed since we were told by those released that Boko Haram kept her because she is a Christian. I can only imagine the way they would have treated her,” Nathan Sharibu told CNN at the time “I have been calling the government to save my daughter. It has been seven months since she was taken, I believe they can get her from Boko Haram if they want to help us.”

The most recent reports about Sharibu are from September, when anonymous alleged “local security sources” told Nigeria’s Daily Trust newspaper that Sharibu has become a mother and had two Boko Haram “husbands” since 2018.

An anonymous source claimed that Sharibu was forced into a marriage with a man identified as “Abdulrahman” and converted to Islam, having two boys with him. More recent reports claimed that she is now married to a Boko Haram “commander,” Ali Abdallah, and has since borne a daughter.

The report claimed that terrorists had given Sharibu rudimentary training in healthcare and that she was being forced to come to the aid of injured terrorists, leading a Boko Haram “medical team.”

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