n Conflict Trends - Why Boko Haram kidnaps women and young girls in north-eastern Nigeria

Volume 2014, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1561-9818


Since its re-emergence in 2010, Nigeria's Islamist group Boko Haram (meaning 'Western education is sinful') has been unleashing a systematic campaign of bombings, kidnappings and drive-by shootings across much of northeastern Nigeria. The group, whose ultimate aim is to Islamise Nigeria, is convinced that secular education (boko) and Westernised elites (yan boko) are the twin problems of the Nigerian state. By its own definition, Boko Haram claims to be Salafist, devoted to "an austere and fundamentalist interpretation of early Islam. It is also jihadist, indicating a commitment to actively promote its cause." The group's founder, Mohammed Yusuf, noted before the uprising of 2009 that: "We are for jihad, and our jihad is intended to make us [Muslims] return to the original state of Islam." Boko Haram also espouses an ultra-Salafi ideology that regards women as inferior to men and considers Christian women, in particular, as "members of an infidel outcast". Attacks by Boko Haram on schools in north-eastern Nigeria have been rampant. In July 2013, members of the group stormed a boarding school in Yobe State and set 29 students and one teacher alight. In 2012, the group distributed pamphlets and videos and delivered sermons throughout northern Nigeria, calling for girls to be denied modern education and promising to abduct "infidel women as slaves". In March 2014, about 85 secondary schools were closed and over 120 000 students were sent home by the Borno State government, following increasing attacks on schools by Boko Haram. On the night of 14-15 April 2014, Boko Haram gained worldwide publicity and social media activism (through the #BringBackOurGirls campaign) when it kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls sitting for their final exams in the town of Chibok in Borno State. The Nigerian government's inertia to take any action in response to the Chibok abductions, combined with the confusion over the actual number of girls kidnapped, drew widespread local and international condemnation.

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