Schoolgirls abducted in Nigeria: Complicity through Silence

This past Monday night, militants from the Islamist group Boko Haram kidnapped 129 high school female students from their beds in northern Nigeria. The Western media has made barely a mention of this story and appears resigned to ignore this abduction, which is an act of terror and unprecedented barbarism against these students whose only crime was to go to school.

Scant information was made available from news sources about the plight of these schoolgirls, who were taken earlier this week in the Chibok area of Borno state. Despite the conflicting information released by the Nigerian government, it appear that only 14 girls have been released. The fate of the remaining 115 others remains shrouded in mystery except for the fact that they are being held by the Nigerian militant group which has been designated a terrorist organization by the US State Department.

Does this story not interest the Western media? Is Nigeria too far away? Too remote? Can we assume that the removal of an entire school full of young girls is considered un-newsworthy? Has the enormity of the tragedy unfolding before us paralyzed the newsroom?

It is of the utmost urgency that the international community demands decisive action and shows solidarity with the schoolgirls. We must send a message to the Boko Haram: we will not tolerate these tactics. Moreover, we must remind the authorities in Abuja that the entire planet is scrutinizing their response to this unspeakable act.

Why were these schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram? They were taken because they were guilty of seeking an education free from the shackles of religious fundamentalism that this militant group aspires to impose on the whole of Nigeria. These girls now deserve our support and help.

While it is always difficult to compare tragedies, there is something disturbing to see how the world was fascinated for over a month about the Malaysia Airlines airplane disappearance, a story that remains a mystery and an investigation in progress as authorities search for a downed plane. In contrast, these Nigerian students remain in captivity while the world is silent.

Each of us, whether we be in the media, politics or simply ordinary citizens can help give these girls a voice now by speaking up and demanding accountability from the authorities whose job it is to lead and enforce the rule of law. Moreover a message must be sent to fundamentalists of all stripes; they must understand that they cannot violate the sanctuary of the schoolhouse and target children. This is the moment when Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan should intervene with infinitely more force to stop the atrocities of Boko Haram.

Above all right now, these girls should know that the world's heart beats to the rhythm of their ordeal. All little girls on the planet should understand that they should not stop to learn because of their gender. We must not remain silent, and thereby complicit, nor should we allow criminals who believe in their own impunity to prey on children. We must remember that each of our girls could be a schoolgirl in Chibok.