On Friday, 63 kidnapped women and girls escaped from Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group that abducted them from their village on June 18. The hostages seized the opportunity to escape when the captors left to launch an attack in Damboa, Nigeria, and news of their escape slowly spread throughout the weekend. Back in April, Boko Haram made headlines when the group kidnapped over 200 girls in Nigeria, releasing a 27-minute-long video showing dozens of the kidnapped girls. The girls were taped wearing hijabs and singing, and the video also shows Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, saying that the girls have converted to Islam and that he will release the girls if the Nigerian government releases imprisoned Boko Haram around the country.
In the days following the video's release, Michelle Obama brought big attention to the #BringBackOurGirls movement when she joined the social media campaign on Instagram. "Our prayers are with the missing Nigerian girls and their families. It's time to #BringBackOurGirls," she wrote. Stars like Anne Hathaway also helped to spread the word. The Oscar winner took to the streets in LA with signs. The hashtag #RealMenDontBuyGirls was trending for days, with celebrities like Justin Timberlake and Ashton Kutcher endorsing the movement in pictures. Here are the details you might be curious about.
- On April 15, Boko Haram invaded a girls' school in Chibok, Nigeria, posing as Nigerian soldiers. They took the girls into their trucks and went into a forest. Reports differed on how many girls were abducted, with the government saying 100 and locals saying 200. The total number now is estimated at about 300.
- On April 23, the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls began to gain steam in Nigeria. Thanks to social media, it soon spread, introducing the crisis to the rest of the world.
- In total, about 50 girls managed to escape after the April kidnapping. Some clung to low-hanging branches while being driven in open trucks.
- In early May, the leader of Boko Haram took credit for the kidnapping in a video and announced the intention to sell them as brides.
- The next day, President Barack Obama announced that the US would help find the girls, saying, "I can only imagine what the parents are going through. So what we've done is, we have offered — and it's been accepted — help from our military and law enforcement officials. We're going to do everything we can to provide assistance to them."
- The US isn't the only country that pledged support. The UK, China, and France also said they were willing to send military assistance.
- Critics of the Nigerian government argued that it had been slow to react. It took weeks to announce a cash reward for anyone who helped get the girls back safely, and the republic reportedly turned down international support at first. Word also broke that the government security forces knew about the raid four hours before it happened and failed to act.
- The country's president, Goodluck Jonathan, has been hopeful that the concerted effort against the terrorist group will be a turning point for Nigeria, which has the largest economy in Africa. But things got worse before they got better. More than 300 people were killed in a terrorist attack carried out by Boko Haram in early May, and the group is still believed to be holding about 200 schoolgirls from the April 14 abduction.
- On June 18, Boko Haram invaded the Kummabza village, burning down the village and kidnapping the women and girls. A few weeks later, on July 4, 63 of those women and girls escaped, returning to their burnt village.
Source: Instagram user Michelle Obama