Nigerian Schoolgirl Abductions: Here’s What We Know

We dissect the many conflicting reports surrounding the kidnapping of more than 200 girls from their school.


Nigerians rally on behalf of more than 200 girls who were abducted from their school in mid-April 2014.

Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images

On April 15, more than 200 Nigerian girls were kidnapped from their school in the town of Chibok. The Islamic militant group Boko Haram has been blamed for the incident. Since the kidnapping, details have been mired in controversy. With so much conflicting information, it is hard to keep the facts straight. Here is what we know.

April 15: Abduction

In the early morning of Tuesday, April 15, more than 200 students between the ages of 16 and 18 were kidnapped from the Chibok Girls Secondary School, located in the conflict-stricken northeastern Borno state. To date, authorities and parents differ on the number of girls missing. The reported number of abducted girls ranges from 234 to 270. In the early moments of the kidnapping, some 50 girls managed to escape their captors.

Though schools in Borno state had been closed since March 18 because of terrorism fears, the girls had been called back to take a physics exam. The Islamic militant group Boko Haram has been blamed for the kidnappings, though it has not publicly claimed responsibility. A Borno state community leader told the Associated Press that the terrorist group was, however, seeking a ransom for the girls’ return.

Boko Haram, a militant group whose name roughly translates from the Hausa language as “Western education is forbidden,” has waged attacks in the northern state for years. The group has a history of attacking schools, most notably the killing of 59 schoolboys in Nigeria’s Yobe state.

April 16: Nigerian Government Reacts

The day after the attack, the Nigerian military claimed to have rescued all the girls. Then, the following day, they retracted the statement; the military had not rescued any of the girls. The nearly 50 girls that had escaped did so on their own. The government has come under increasing criticism as the fate of the girls remains unknown. Nigerians have taken to the streets to demand that the government do more to bring the girls home.

April 25: #BringBackOurGirls

Activists took to social media using the hashtags #BringBackOurGirls and #BringBackOurDaughters to demand more action from the government. March organizer Hauwa Abdu Biu has named the movement “Free Our Girls.” The organizing on social media platforms led to a protest in front of Nigeria’s parliament. According to the BBC, former World Bank vice president and ex-Nigerian Cabinet member Obiageli Ezekwesili accused the Nigerian government of having “no coherent search-and-rescue” plan.

April 29: Girls Taken Abroad and Married Off?

Unconfirmed reports have spread that the abducted girls have been sold as brides to members of Boko Haram. It is believed that many of the girls have been taken to neighboring countries Chad and Cameroon.

According to Al-Jazeera, the rights group Borno-Yobe People’s Forum has reported that the girls have been sold as brides for 2,000 Nigerian naira ($12.40) to members of Boko Haram.

The allegations of forced marriage have not been verified. And at the same time, the Associated Press is reporting that the terrorists are negotiating a ransom for the girls’ return.

April 30: “Million Woman March”

Activists in Abuja, the nation’s capital, have taken to the streets to demand more action from the government. According to The Guardian, an organization named Women for Peace and Justice has called for a “million woman march.” The protests have garnered support through the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. On May 1 the protests had entered their second day.

Diamond Sharp is an editorial fellow at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.

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