On Thursday, October 13, 2016, twenty-one of the Chibok schoolgirls captured by Boko Haram were freed. The girls were released in Banki, Nigeria, a town near the country of Cameroon. A child born in captivity was released as well. Of the 276 girls captured in April of 2014, 197 remain missing. It has not been verified yet, but it is likely that some of the missing girls died in captivity. Around 60 girls escaped in the days following their capture, and according to CNN, one girl was found last spring who escaped.
A ceremony was held in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, to welcome back the girls. Many of the girls recounted their experiences. One girl spoke of hiding in the woods as a bomb dropped near her, yet she managed to survive. Another told the BCC, “We had no food for one month and 10 days but we did not die. We thank God.”
All of the girls who had been freed discussed how their connection to God saved them: “The help of God,” they claimed, was the reason they lived. A family member of one of the girls stated, “We thank God. I never thought I was going to see my daughter again but here she is… Those who are still out there– may God bring them back to be reunited with their parents.”
Although the majority of the girls were Christian when they were captured, all were forced to convert to Islam. It is unclear if the girls who have made it back to their families have converted back to Christianity.
The release was negotiated between the Nigerian government and leaders of Boko Haram, but all other information is being kept confidential. However, BCC wrote, “The AP news agency also reported that a ‘handsome ransom’, in the millions of dollars, was paid by the Swiss government on behalf of the Nigerian government.” Lai Mohammed, the Information Minister of Nigeria, told journalists that the release of the twenty-one girls was “the first step” in bringing back all of the girls, and that phase two is underway.
Vice President of Nigeria Yemi Osinbajo tweeted on Thursday, “Dawn, dusk, almost a 1000 days. Twenty-one of our girls are back. It is my job to welcome you home. That nation has been waiting for you.”
Families are still eagerly awaiting their reunion with their still-missing daughters, but it now seems that we might be able to #BringBackOurGirls.
(Copyright 2016 Caroline Haywood)