April 14 marks the one-year anniversary of the Boko Haram kidnapping of almost 300 young female Christians in Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria. The terrorist group only released 59 girls in the past year– most accidentally. Witnesses tell BBC that groups of those remaining missing have been spotted.
A woman told the BBC she saw the females in Gwoza three weeks ago “before the Boko Haram militants were driven out.” The girls were dressed in typical Islamic dress and always accompanied with militants.
“They said they were Chibok girls kept in a big house,” explained the woman. “We just happened to be on the same road with them.”
Another woman claimed she saw the girls in November in Bita village.
“About a week after they were brought to the camp, one of us peeked through a window and asked: ‘Are you really the Chibok girls?’ and they said: ‘Yes’. We believed them and didn’t ask them again,” she said. “They took Koranic lessons, cleaned their compound, cooked for themselves and they braided each others’ hair. They were treated differently – their food [was] better and water clean.”
The Nigerian army captured Gwoza, but did not find any of the Chibok girls.
A girl who is one of the maids confided in me, “Mama, you see the other side of the camp is where Abubakar Shekau and top commandants are living. There are many girls of our age there, even me, they don’t allow me to go there.” When that young girl said that to me, I quickly remembered the story of the abducted Chibok school girls. Though I did not see them, my spirit told me they are in that camp.
Boko Haram targeted the girls because they went to school. The name Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden.” The kidnapping caused international outrage and inspired the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls on Twitter. First Lady Michelle Obama even posted a picture of her with the hashtag. The outrage dwindled even though many girls are still missing. Gordon Brown at The Guardian insists the kidnapped girls “should never be abandoned, neglected or forgotten in their greatest hour of need” and the would should “not quit on them.”
Adrian Kriesch from Deutsche Welle interviewed a few families on Monday. Lawal Emos broke down when asked for a picture of a 17-year-old daughter Comfort, who was kidnapped in Chibok. He left all photos of her behind when he, his wife Hauwa, and his five other children fled to Yola because “he can’t control his emotions” when he looked at her pictures. He admitted the couple “find themselves thinking it would be easier for them if they knew their daughter was dead.”
“I have lost my hope in politicians because they are not doing anything,” cried Hauwa. “Only God can still help us to find them – dead or alive. But our government, forget it.”
Mark Enoch says he prays for his daughter every day and night at the side of her bed. He refuses to believe his daughter died. Boko Haram spies claim “she refused to convert from Christianity to Islam.” Militants then stoned and buried her alive. Enoch and his family fled Chibok after “members almost died when bullets were fired into his home.” He refuses to give up hope on his daughter and a 16-year-old girl the family adopted.
“For nearly 365 nights I have knelt and prayed for their return,” Enoch told The Guardian. “We are in one house at the moment with four families in a compound. We are almost refugees in our own country. Any time I hear a noise it feels as if Boko Haram is coming for us.”
A girl named Deborah was one of the 57 girls who escaped Boko Haram only hours after the abduction. She studies at the American University of Nigeria (AUN) in Yola along with 20 other girls who escaped. She told AFP she wants to be in the United Nations “to help my community in Chibok, Nigeria and the world.” The other girls said they want to be “doctors or lawyers,” but every single one of them put an emphasis on education. After all, Boko Haram chose those girls simply because they desired an education. But Deborah and her friends want good to come out of the kidnapping.
“It has been a horrible journey yet we believe that coming to AUN is for a purpose, which is to be an instrument of positive change in our hometown,” said Sarah, another girl the terrorist group kidnapped. “We have not been broken by the attack. We see ourselves as the people who have been chosen to make positive future changes not just in Chibok, but in our country and the world.”
Despite the trauma and violence, the girls claim they forgive the abductors.
“I forgive Boko Haram for what they have done and I pray God forgives them too,” claimed Blessing.