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UPDATE: 8 more girls, some as young as 12, were kidnapped overnight by armed men.

Amina Shawok, who escaped the kidnapping by jumping from a truck, and the schoolhouse from which the girls were taken. (Photos via CNN and the BBC.)

 

 UPDATE: Eight more girls, aged 12 to 15, were kidnapped from a village in north-east Nigeria overnight. It is suspected that Boko Haram, the group still holding over 200 girls kidnapped on 14 April, were responsible for the latest abductions.

The ABC reports that Lazarus Musa, a resident of the village of Warabe, said armed men had opened fire during the raid.

“They came in two vehicles painted in army colour. They started shooting in our village,” he said.

The gunmen reportedly took the girls away on trucks, along with looted livestock and food.

Yesterday, Mamamia wrote:

While our mainstream media was busy publishing headline after headline about the debt levy — and while the world spent tens of millions of dollars searching for a missing plane in the depths of the ocean — we, Australia, collectively failed to do something.

In fact, we failed to do anything – anything – about more than 200 innocent schoolgirls who were abducted and reportedly sold into sex slavery last month.

Each of these girls is aged between 16 and 18. Each has a family who raised her, helped with her first steps, had high hopes for her, nurtured her, sent her to a local girls’ school to prepare her for the future, and waited for her to come home after she’d sat a physics test last month.

In each case, their daughter never did make it home. Instead, each family was delivered news of the most nightmarish kind, reports that their daughter had been stolen in the middle of the night by armed men and, a few days later, whispers that she might have been sold into marriage for just $12 in one of a series of “mass weddings” held across West Africa.

If you’re about to click away from this story, believing that it doesn’t have anything to do with you – don’t. Because though this horrific kidnapping may have happened in Nigeria, it affects all women.

Here’s why.

Boko Haram and its leader, Abubakar Shekau, have taken credit for the mass abduction in a chilling new video.

These girls were not targeted at random. They were stolen because they were female and because they believed they had a right to go to school.

They were taken because they bravely asserted – despite the threat of terror plaguing the unstable region of their country – their right to education.

They were terrifyingly spirited away in the back of packed lorries because they acted like human beings, not slaves.

In case you missed our previous reports on this horrifying incident, the name of the group responsible for the mass abduction, Boko Haram, literally means “Western education is forbidden”. This radical Islamist group has targeted educational institutions before. And its leader, Abubakar Shekau, just released a chilling video in which he boastingly takes credit for the abduction and announces that he plans to treat the girls like “slaves”. In the video, obtained by the AFP news agency, he says:

“I will sell them in the market, by Allah. I will sell them off and marry them off. There is a market for selling humans… I will marry off a woman at the age of 12. I will marry off a girl at the age of nine…

Women are slaves. I want to reassure my Muslim brothers that Allah says slaves are permitted in Islam.”

In the three weeks since the April 14 abduction, the response of the Nigerian government has been, frankly, pathetic. While President Goodluck Jonathan finally vowed on Sunday to find the girls and set up an investigation into how the kidnappings happened, he has drawn heavy criticism, both internationally and domestically, over his government’s fumbled response to the kidnapping — which at one stage reportedly involved the temporary suspension of the search.

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President Goodluck Jonathan’s official statement on Sunday, in which he pledged to find the girls. (Screenshot via Al Jazeera.)

The government also initially botched up the facts relating to the abduction, allegedly reporting at one point that all but eight girls had already been found. Now, two women leading protests over these girls’ abductions, Saratu Angus Ndirpaya and Naomi Mutah Nyadar, have been detained on order of Mr Jonathan’s wife – and in a bizarre twist, Mrs Jonathan has claimed the abduction reports are a ploy to undermine her husband’s re-election chances.

Mr Jonathan also accused the victims’ parents of withholding information about their daughters on Sunday, despite some accounts of parents being forced to launch vigilante search parties of their own due to the government’s perceived disinterest in the search.

Now, some media outlets have reported that the story hasn’t made front-page news because, in the remote and dangerous region of Nigeria, it’s difficult to get reporters on the ground. But, irrespective of that issue, let’s agree on this: we know that over 200 girls — 276, Al Jazeera now report — have been taken by a group known to steal and rape girls and women. We know who they’ve been taken by. We may even know which forest the girls are likely to have been trafficked into – the Sambisa forest on Nigeria’s border with Cameroon.

In short, we know enough about these abductions for the Nigerian government to step up its search effort. And if the Nigerian government can’t or won’t do everything in its power to bring these girls back from the evil men detailing them, then enough is known for the international community to invest the same time and effort it has spent pouring into finding missing flight MH370 and its 239 passengers into this cause involving living young girls and women.

Former Nobel Peace Prize nominee Malala poses with a sign that says #BringBackOurGirls, the hashtag of a Twitter campaign that’s currently calling for action on the issue.

Enough is known for the Australian government to pledge, as US Secretary of State John Kerry has, to offer any assistance necessary to ensure the search is a success.

For world leaders to heed the demands of protest groups from London to Los Angeles who have taken to the streets to demand commitment to the cause.

For Australian media to start taking this story seriously.

As girls’ education campaigner Malala Yousafzai, 16, eloquently explained in BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “If we forget about these girls, it means we are forgetting our own sister, our own people.”

These young girls — who did nothing more than assert their right to education — share our desire to learn; our need to be valued; our right to be safe; and the world we live and raise our daughters in.

So let’s take a cue from Malala and put pressure on the powers that be to take this seriously.

And to bring back our girls.

Our girls.

 

You can sign the Change.org petition to demand action on this issue — by the Nigerian government, UNICEF and the UN Women’s agency – right here.