Last month, more than 250 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped by extremist militants and are reportedly being married off to their kidnappers in mass weddings. While they have not publicly claimed responsibility, it is strongly suspected that members of the militant Islamic movement known as Boko Haram — a group whose name means “Western education is sinful,” according to the Washington Post — are behind the abductions.
Now in their third week of captivity, the girls are being failed by their government, which has made insufficient efforts to rescue the girls. As a result, their families have taken recovery efforts into their own hands. As PolicyMic recently reported, the mothers of the missing girls marched to Nigeria’s capital, demanding the government do more to help them. The missing girls’ parents have also led their own search team through Sambia Forest, near the school where the girls were taken.
Not surprisingly, the protests have spilled over from the streets to the Internet, with online campaigns demanding the Nigerian government take action to #BringBackOurGirls and #BringBackOurDaughters. But governments have largely remained silent until now.
Today, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pledged U.S. support in the search for the girls:
“The kidnapping of hundreds of children by Boko Haram is an unconscionable crime,” Kerry said. “We will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and hold the perpetrators to justice… We are working to strengthen Nigeria’s institutions and its military to combat Boko Haram’s campaign of terror and violence.”
Kerry did not specify exactly how the U.S. will support the Nigerian government, but one thing is for certain: the U.S. must set an example for the international community, moving beyond rhetoric to substantive action. Will it catapult other nations to likewise step forward and pressure the Nigerian government? Time will tell. Meanwhile, it’s imperative that we join the groundswell of public support to #BringBackOurGirls.