While the world has gotten behind the hashtag and slogan #Bringbackourgirls in support of finding all of the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by the Boko Haram, authorities say locating them could take years.
Nigeria’s defense minister General Manir Dan Ali told Voice of America that it took the United States years to find Osama bin Laden and it could take as much time to locate the missing girls. “It took the U.S. up to seven, eight, up to 10 years before they could get to bin Laden,” he said. “We are continuing our campaigning in the Sambisa Forest in all its nooks and corners.”
The 276 Chibok girls were abducted three years ago by the Islamic fundamentalist group, which took them from a government secondary boarding school in the northeastern part of the country where girls from nearby areas had gone to take exams. They were targeted by the terrorist group because of their disdain for educating girls and Western education in general. Some of the girls escaped, others were returned in a prisoner exchange. Currently, 195 girls are still missing.
The kidnapping spurred a global outcry and the hashtag #Bringbackourgirls, which human rights advocates have been supporting since the incident first happened. The Nigerian government has said it was doing all it could to find the girls, but the parents have waited for answers to no avail so far.
The Boko Haram, which has declared an allegiance with ISIS, took over much of the area where the girls were abducted, but they were fought off by a military campaign led by Nigerian forces. However, the inability to locate the girls has overshadowed any progress against the group.
Sheikh Nuru Khalid, a member of a group that works on peacemaking between Nigerian Christians and Muslims says not finding the missing girls would mean an overall victory for the Boko Haram. “We can never allow the terrorists to win the war. If they got [away] free with those girls, then they have relatively won the war,” he said.
The psychological trauma caused to families by the Boko Haram invasion must also be addressed by the Nigerian government, said Human rights lawyer Abdu Bulama Bukar.
“Married women have been made single again; kids have been orphaned; homeowners are without shelter; Nigerians have been turned into refugees in their own homeland,” he told VOA.