Last week, 234 schoolgirls were abducted.
Stolen from their boarding school by gunmen in the middle of the night. Packed into the back of open lorries as the buildings around them were burned to the ground.
A handful of the teenage girls escaped by hiding in a dangerous nearby forest; others jumped from the lorries in their desperation to escape.
Even though more than 200 schoolgirls remain missing — with many fearing they’ve been trafficked into sexual servitude — it’s likely you haven’t even heard of the April 15 incident.
That’s because it happened in north-eastern Nigeria, where attacks and kidnappings like this are so common they’re not even shocking anymore.
It’s suspected that militant Islamic group Boko Haram, which wants to impose a stricter enforcement of Sharia law across Nigeria, is responsible for the abductions. The group’s name means “Western education is forbidden” in the local Hausa language and it has often targeted educational institutions in its attacks.
Frighteningly, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau announced last year that those adbucted by the group would begin a new life as “servants”. Girls previously kidnapped by the group have later been found pregnant or with babies as a result of rape.
Frantic efforts by security forces and vigilante groups are ongoing, while devastated parents have pooled money to buy fuel for motorbikes and are searching for the girls in the nearby Sambisa forest, as the BBC reports.
Other parents have appealed to the Boko Haram to have mercy.
“We the parents, we are pleading with the Boko Haram… They are our future,” one father told the BBC in a phone interview.
For almost a year, the provinces of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa have been under a state of emergency due to relentless assaults blamed on Boko Haram. Violence by the group, which was declared a terrorist group by the US in 2013, killed 1,500 in the first three months of 2014 alone, compared with an estimated 3,600 between 2010 and 2013.
Nigeria’s military, which has also been accused of human rights abuses, including extra-judicial killings, has faced heavy criticism over its failure to curb the Islamist uprising.
If you’d like to donate to help women in Nigeria, visit Women for Women here. Its programs in Nigeria include direct financial aid, rights awareness classes, job-skills training and emotional support.