Migrante International today joined the international community in calling for the immediate release of at least 275 Nigerian girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants.
The girls, aged 16 to 18, were abducted by the terrorists in the middle of the night from their dorms in Chibok, Nigeria last April 14. Since the kidnapping, around 50 girls have managed to escape.
Migrante International is a convenor of the Stop the Traffic! Campaign, an international alliance of migrants and human rights organizations, church groups and other agencies against trafficking in persons.
In a chilling video message released to the media on May 5, Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the kidnappings. He said that they intended to “sell” the girls to traffickers, while some of them have already been forcefully married off or sold as slaves to their abductors.
“We condemn this terrorist and barbaric act. There is simply no justification for this kind of slavery, exploitation and human rights violation. We call on all Filipinos in the international community to collectively denounce the kidnappings and join the clamor for the girls’ safe release,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.
Martinez also condemned international trafficking syndicates who he said are obviously benefiting from the terrorist act. “Always, trafficking of women, girls and children and other gender-based violence thrive in repressive and strife-ridden areas. The culture of impunity in Nigeria on human rights abuses, gender discrimination, government inaction and state fascism makes women, girls and children more vulnerable to such kinds of attacks and modern-day slavery.”
The Boko Haram is said the have links within the Nigerian government. Under fire for failing to rescue the kidnapped girls, Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has confirmed for the first time that the Boko Haram is being backed by some government and security officials.
State repression in Nigeria has also not helped in the campaign for the girls’ release. Recently, Naomi Mutah, a known political figure in Nigeria, was detained by security forces for helping organize protests over the abduction. She was taken by the police allegedly because First Lady Patience Jonathan “felt insulted” that the girls’ mothers had sent Mutah to a meeting with her instead of going themselves. Mutah was later released.
“It has been three weeks, more than 200 girls remain in danger while 50 have managed to escape to tell their tales of horror, and still the Nigerian government claims that it has no idea where the girls and the kidnappers are. We have every reason to believe that the kidnappers are possibly in connivance with the government and huge international trafficking syndicates. We call on the Nigerian government to act speedily for the girls’ release. It should punish coddlers and backers of the Boko Haram in government. We also call on the international community to take collective action against continuously rising cases of trafficking of women, girls and children,” Martinez said. ###