In Depth

Chibok schoolgirl kidnap: Three years on

After the clamour of #BringBackOurGirls, at least 195 young women are still held hostage by Boko Haram

Good Friday marks the third anniversary of the kidnapping of Nigeria's Chibok schoolgirls.

The mass abduction by Islamist militant group Boko Haram shocked the world and sparked a global social media campaign using the hashtag #bringbackourgirls. Most of the girls are still missing.

What happened?

On the night of 14 April 2014, militants from Boko Haram raided the Government Girls Secondary School in the town of Chibok, in Nigeria's north-eastern Borno state, where the group has its strongest presence.

Pupils from Government Girls and neighbouring schools had been staying overnight in order to take an exam the next day. Some 276 of them were forced on to trucks and taken deep into the jungle.

Some girls managed to escape and run home, but 219 were not so lucky.

One escapee said the militants told her: "You're only coming to school for prostitution. Boko [Western education] is haram [forbidden], so what are you doing in school?"

How did the world respond?

World leaders condemned the abduction and offered to lend resources to the search operation, while the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls went viral around the world.

However, the initial outcry soon died down. The rapid rise and fall of #BringBackOurGirls "has obvious parallels with #Kony2012", the "well-intentioned but ultimately ill-conceived campaign" against the use of child soldiers in Uganda which "fizzled out spectacularly", says Time.

In 2014, The Independent wrote that the dwindling attention of the international media "speaks volumes about the low priority afforded to violence against women and girls."

Oby Ezekwesili and Aisha Yesufu, who founded the campaign, wrote in Newsweek last year that the international community "initially echoed our agonizing chant - #BringBackOurGirls", but then the world seemed to quickly move on.

Where are the girls now?

In 2016, Boko Haram released three videos claiming to show some of the Chibok schoolgirls, who the group said had converted to Islam and married militants.

They also demanded the release of imprisoned fighters in exchange for the schoolgirls.

A handful of girls have escaped or been recaptured in government raids over the three years, while a deal brokered by the Red Cross last October secured the release of another 21.

However, for many, returning home was a fresh ordeal. Some former captives who had been married off to Boko Haram militants, especially those who had become pregnant, were "viewed with mistrust and suspicion" by their families and communities, The Guardian reports.

Around 195 of the Chibok schoolgirls are thought to remain in captivity. Progress has been painfully slow and Nigeria has been lambasted by campaigners and the press for failing to make headway.

Nigeria's Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said this week that the fate of the girls is "a matter of conscience that concerns everyone". He also confirmed that negotiations for their release were ongoing and had "gone quite far".

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