Religion in Society

Teen Girls Kidnapped By Islamic Militants Forced To Marry, Sent Abroad

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

Many of the 230 girls kidnapped from a Nigerian school by Islamic militants more than two weeks ago were sent abroad and some forced to marry members of the Boko Haram.

A Chibok community leader, Pogo Bitrus, told the BBC that there have been “sightings” of gunmen crossing into Cameroon and Chad with girls between the age 16 and 18.

While 43 girls managed to escape the Boko Haram, a militant group whose name translates to “Western education is sinful,” but at least 230 are still missing. Bitrus was adamant that 230 is the correct number, after numerous conflicting reports were made since the abduction.

"Some of them have been taken across Lake Chad and some have been ferried across the border into parts of Cameroon," he told the BBC.

He said there are reports that some of the insurgents have married kidnapped girls.

"We learned that one of the 'grooms' brought his 'wife' to a neighboring town in Cameroon and kept her there," he added. "It's a medieval kind of slavery.”

“I thought it was the end of my life,” Deborah Sanya, 18, told the New Yorker Monday. “There were many, many of them.”

Sanya and 40 of her friends managed to escape their captors.

An unidentified Chibok pastor told the New Yorker in a phone interview that his daughter is still missing.

“I was forced to come home empty-handed,” he said. “I just don’t know what the federal government is doing about it. And there is no security here that will defend us. You have to do what you can do to escape for your life.”

When asked about the rumors that the girls were taken abroad, he paused and said, “How will I be happy? How will I be happy?”

Mismanagement has plagued the search for the school girls since the start.

“We don’t know where they are up until now, and we have not heard anything from the government,” Sanya’s father Ishaya Sanya told Alexis Okeowo, of the New Yorker. “Every house in Chibok has been affected by the kidnapping.”

Bitrus told BBC that it's as if everyone in the community has lost their own child.

"Whether it is my niece or whoever it doesn't matter. We are all one people," he said. "That's why I'm crying now as community leader to alert the world to what's happening so that some pressure would be brought to bear on government to act and ensure the release of these girls."

Sources: BBC News, New Yorker