A little over a month ago, the entire country was thrown into surprise celebration when 82 of the 238 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, a Nigerian islamic terrorist group with affiliations to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014 were released. During the three years that the girls were abducted, they became the very public face of the victims of Islamic terrorism and radicalisation, as horror stories began to trickle. Stories of the girls being repeatedly raped and forced to bear children, children that would ideally become the next generation of Freedom fighters, girls forced to take up arms and become suicide bombers, girls infected with HIV and other STI’s and abandoned to die.
The whole world rallied around the Chibok girls, pressuring international governments to pressure the Nigerian government to take action, even while other girls and boys were being kidnapped from their homes and villages and forced to join the Boko Haram movement.
The 82 girls who have returned are both a victory and a reminder that the biggest casualties of religious extremism is often young women. But they are also a stark reminder that the world has simply refused to acknowledge that they are only small part of a transcontinental problem. A problem that is gaining steam in Kenya and Somalia. Kenya is struggling with its own deadly yet less acknowledged Islamist terrorist Crisis. The Al-Shabaab, an East African Muslim fundamentalist group with goals similar to Boko Haram has taken it upon itself to ‘stem’ the spread of what it terms ‘Western Secularism’ through violence and Jihad. Al Shabaab’s ranks have grown from core fundamentalists to include young Kenyans, disillusioned by poor governance and looking for a cause to follow. But as these young men flee home to join Al Shabaab, they aren’t going alone. They are abducting young Kenyan women, usually Christians they hope to forcefully revert to Islam and damning them to a life of forced labour and sexual slavery.
The BBC has done an extensive report on the sex slavery that is going in Al Shabaab and is trying to draw attention to the plight of these women. The Chibok Girls shouldn’t be the only nexus of our activism for girls who have become victims of religious extremism and terrorism. They should be our starting point.
First published on The Sexuality Blog YNaija: