By Yusur Al Bahrani
They aren’t rich. They aren’t celebrities. You don’t know their names. I don’t know their names. If they were rich, we would have seen mainstream media talking about them until now. Boko Haram in Nigeria kidnapped more than 270 Nigerian schoolgirls on April 14, 2014. Some escaped, but approximately 230 are still missing. It has been almost a year, and I wonder why people around me aren’t outraged. People aren’t careless, but the system is filled with hypocrisies. Our system puts priorities for us. If those girls were rich or celebrities, or even foreign journalists and workers, there would be more solidarity actions towards them.
As a peace builder, I don’t ask for foreign military intervention. I understand that the situation is complicated. But I demand an action to rescue them and to put measures to protect girls going to school. Educated girls and women will help Nigeria be a better place. Why the girls haven’t been rescued yet?
During UN’s Commission on the Status of Women, I attended a side event in which participants were asked to remember and perform a multi-faith prayer for the abused, missing and murdered women. Frankly, it was a coincidence. As VOW event ended, I randomly looked at the schedule and the multi-faith prayer grabbed my attention. There was a little voice inside me saying: boost your spiritual energy before heading back to Toronto. I arrived late and left early. I had a to catch a flight back to home right after the event. The session didn’t only boost my energy, but helped me think about issues that were somehow forsaken in my everyday conversations with other activists and journalists. I was there during when participants were asked to remember the missing Nigerian schoolgirls. One of the speakers was Mojubaolu Okome, originally from Nigeria. She is a professor of political science, African and women’s studies at Brooklyn College. She talked about the missing Nigerian schoolgirls. She brought my attention to something important when talking about crisis: the fact that we don’t know the exact number of the girls is a catastrophic issue. Does it matter if they were 300 or 270 girls? Yes, it does! Every one of them matter and should matter to the mainstream media, human rights activists and concerned citizens around the world. When the number isn’t confirmed, I get the impression that no one ever cared to talk to the family members of the girls and conduct an actual investigation.
Okome, who was inspired by local Nigerian activists’ work, helped to launch #BringBackOurGirls campaign in United States, said, “the ones [girls] who came back, they rescued themselves.” This means that there hasn’t been much effort put to rescue the girls. To me, this translates to: it’s not a national or international priority for governments to help rescue the girls.
While I have never asked for foreign military action, but hypocritically, our Canadian government has been talking more about human rights violations in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan to justify intervention or sanctions while we rarely see any serious action towards the missing girls in Nigeria. Small actions, but yet crucial, could be awareness campaigns, more media coverage and looking at the issue beyond headlines. What can we do to help their families? What kind of action and effort needed to help protect other girls going to schools? We might not know their names, but they aren’t nameless. In our campaigns we should say that they are our girls because they are wherever we are. #BringBackOurGirls campaign is important and it should aim to communicate with people in Nigeria and ask them about ways in which we can help. It should also not replicate the imperialist ideology that a Western government is the savior. How can we be in solidarity with the people in Nigeria? Solidarity shouldn’t mean intervention. Solidarity means helping to find real concrete solutions.