The Blog

One Year on From Chibok and We Are Not Shocked Enough

It was late in the evening when the seven Toyota pickup trucks emerged from the dense Sambisa forest and rolled into the north Nigerian town of Chibok...

It was late in the evening when the seven Toyota pickup trucks emerged from the dense Sambisa forest and rolled into the north Nigerian town of Chibok.

They drove to the senior secondary school, where the men on the trucks - heavily armed members of the Islamist group Boko Haram - overpowered the security guards. They herded 252 female students, aged between 16 and 20, onto the trucks and drove away deep into the forest, into the darkness, into the night.

Most were Christians, members of the Church of the Brethren. About 20 girls managed to escape, but the remaining 232 have not been heard of since.

That was 14 April 2014. A year ago today.

A global social-media storm, involving everyone from Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai to America's First Lady Michelle Obama, blew up around the cry of #bringbackourgirls.

The Chibok kidnappings shocked the world. But the world should have been shocked a long time before that. Because, what happened in Chibok was nothing new. It was just the scale of it that was different.

Boko Haram have been abducting girls in Nigeria for many years. In September 2011, for example, the Ministry of Education of Bauchi state ordered that the Government Girls Secondary School in the town of Tafawa Balewa should be closed. Seventeen female students, aged between 15-22 years, were transferred to another college some distance from the town. When their parents went to visit their daughters' 'new' school, they were told by the school authorities that they had no knowledge of the whereabouts of these students.

They have never been seen since.

A report from Nigeria's Political Violence Research Network suggested that one reason why Boko Haram deliberately targets women and girls is that "Boko Haram attackers believe Christian women are responsible for making their children hold Islam in disdain, as a religion that perpetrates terror." If women, indeed, are the key transmitters of values and beliefs, then the kidnappings, forced marriages and forced conversions of women and girls make strategic sense.


Open Doors has been working in north Nigeria for many years. Every week our staff risk their lives to visit communities under threat. And every week we hear more news - more kidnappings, and violence.

And not just Nigeria. The abduction of women and children is a worldwide phenomenon. A document issued by the so-called Islamic State mentions prices set by the terrorist group to sell abducted Yazidi and Christian women and children: the top prices being 150,000 Iraqi Dinar for Christian or Yazidi girls age between 10 and 20, and 200,000 Dinar for those aged 9 and younger. In Pakistan we hear of women abducted from their families, and forced to convert to Islam and to marry Muslim men. Colombian guerillas had a long history of abducting the children of Christian families to turn them into child soldiers.

What happened in Chibok on that night one year ago should shock us all. And, of course, it is not only Christians who are suffering - Muslim girls were taken from Chibok too. But every day around the world girls and young women are under threat because of their beliefs.


So where are the girls? A local worker told Open Doors, "I am presently in contact with the chairman of Chibok parents who lost their daughters. The girls are still missing. There is no information of escapes. They are still in the hands of their abductors. People are coming up with false stories but the truth is the girls are still missing."

That is the best we know for now. And for some parents, sadly, it is already too late: reports suggest that up to 20 of the parents of the girls have died due to stress-related diseases during the last year.

At Open Doors we will continue to support these communities, not just in Nigeria, but across sub-Saharan Africa, where there has been a dramatic rise in the persecution of Christians. The international community must use its influence to support a coordinated response against extremism.

We must, in other words, continue to be shocked.