Two years ago, Islamist thugs kidnapped 276 girls from their village school in northeastern Nigeria. When it seemed that Nigerian officials were dragging their feet in rescuing their daughters, granddaughters, sisters, and nieces, local parents began using the hashtag “#BringBackOurGirls” to shine the hot lights on their plight. Despite wingnuts deriding it as a waste of time, the campaign went severely viral, particularly after Westerners–including Michelle Obama herself–picked it up. It forced the government to commit more resources to rescuing the girls, including international aid.
Well, it looks like that effort is bearing fruit. In the last 48 hours, Nigerian troops and pro-government vigilantes have rescued two of the girls from the clutches of their captors, Boko Haram. Not only that, but all indications are that the Nigerian government is preparing to storm the compound where the remaining 217 girls are still being held.
Late Wednesday, Nigerian officials announced that on Tuesday, the Civilian Joint Task Force, an ad hoc band of citizens dedicated to bringinng the girls home, found 19-year-old Amina Ali Nkeki in a forest near a Boko Haram hideout with her baby son. According to The Daily Beast, the JTF has had “remarkable success” tying down Boko Haram. Even though they are severely overmatched on paper–AK-47s versus machetes and axes–in many areas, they have made it nearly impossible for Boko Haram to strike. It’s all the more impressive since Boko Haram has been aligned with ISIS since last spring.
The JTF also captured a man who claimed to be her husband, but is really a Boko Haram terrorist. The headmaster of the Chibok high school from where the girls were kidnapped, as well as her mother, both confirmed Amina’s identity.
Watch more about Amina’s rescue from AfricaNews.
After being checked out at a hospital, Amina met with Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari. She says that most of her classmates are safe, though they are being heavily guarded in a compound near where she was rescued. However, considering that Boko Haram has joined ISIS, there’s a lot of reason to fear that they won’t remain safe for long.
Amina is currently being cared for by Kashim Shettima, the governor of her home state of Borno, and is expected to undergo a deradicalization process before returning home. In a colossal understatement, a spokesman for the #BringBackOurGirls campaign says that Amina is “traumatised,” and will need a lot of counseling in the months to come. However, she has every intention of going back to school.
Hours later, Nigerian army officials announced that a second girl, Sarah Luka, had been rescued as well. At the same time, Shettima said that Nigerian troops are “already moving into the forest” where the remaining girls are being held. He expects that they will be saved “in the coming weeks.”
However, Buhari has already fired the equivalent of a ballistic missile at Boko Haram. He says that his government will make it a priority for the girls to get back in school once they are rescued–the very thing that Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden,” tried to prevent.
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that these girls are the real heroes–the Malalas of Nigeria.