Hundreds gathered Tuesday in front of the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, D.C. to protest the Nigerian government’s failure to rescue the 276 teenage girls who were abducted 22 days ago by members of the Islamist group Boko Haram. It has been reported that the girls are being kept as slaves or sold as brides.
Abubaker Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, announced several weeks before the abductions: “In Islam, it is allowed to take infidel women as slaves and in due course we will start taking women away and sell in the market.” Following the mass kidnapping, Shekau said, “I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah.”
According to the Stefanos Foundation, a Nigeria-based human rights organization that tracks victims of Boko Haram, the names of 180 girls were released: 165 are from Christian homes and 15 are from Muslim homes.
The abduction has captured widescale attention. In addition to today’s rally in Washington, D.C., rallies have been held in Ottowa and Syracuse, and rallies have been scheduled for Urbana, Illinoi (May 7), Boston (May 8), Chicago (May 10), Indianapolis (May 11), as well as in the UK, Sweden, and New Zealand. Details for the rallies can be found on the Facebook page Bring Back Our Girls.
On May 3, Secretary of State John Kerry said, “We will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes.” However, the United States has been notably slow to respond to the Boko Haram threat. Boko Haram has been active since 2009, but it was only in November 2013 that the State Department designated them a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).
The Nigerian embassy posted an announcement that there will be no consular services today due to “database upgrades and migrations.”
Katie Gorka is President of the Council on Global Security.