Terrorism: Who Do We Actually Care About?

The Image Bank / Henry Horenstein

The Image Bank / Henry Horenstein

In 2014, Boko Hiram made headlines for the kidnapping of 241 Nigerian girls. These girls were taken from their school in Eastern Nigeria and escorted away in the dead of night. Following the kidnapping, many of these young girls were forced to convert from their own religion to Islam. Taking religious freedom away from them is not even close to the worst part of this story. To take credit for the kidnapping, Boko Hiram leader Abukar Shekau uploaded a video saying “I am the one that took your girls. Are you the one that created the girls? I will sell them in the market. I have my own market of selling human beings. It is Allah, the owner that instructed me to sell. I will sell the girls…It is Allah that instructed us, until we soak the ground of Nigeria with Christian blood and so-called Muslims contradicting Islam”.  Around this time, reports began coming in that the terrorists who took the young women were buying them for around $20. It is horrific to think that their futures, bodies, and lives were worth nothing more than the price of a cheap T-shirt from Target. These girls were going to school to get their education, and risked their lives doing so on a daily basis. They were told pursuing more would lead to more, but that false hope was shattered by an unimaginable reality.  

The terrorist group responsible for this horrid mass kidnapping has been in operation for quite some time. Boko Hiram was founded in 2002 and occupies African countries such as Nigeria, Chad, and Niger. Their insurgency has led to very devastating events. Aside from the school kidnapping, three main catastrophes in 2014 showed Nigeria just how big of a threat they were.

January 26, 2014:

The terrorist group shot into a crowd of people in a highly populated village market in the small Nigerian town of Kauri. They then proceeded to burn down homes and other small buildings in the surrounding area. At least 45 people died in this attack.  

February 25, 2014:

In Yobe State, Nigeria, students at a boarding school were ambushed in their dormitories by members of Boko Haram. Many students were said to have been killed in their sleep. Once again, the attack was done using guns and fire. This unfortunate event corresponded perfectly with the meaning of Boko Haram; Western Education is Sinful. When examining some of their deadliest attacks, it’s clear they have a strong prejudice against all topics of education that don’t deal with their interpretation of Islam.

May 1, 2014:

In Abuja, Nigeria’s capital car bombs exploded near a bus station, killing 75 people. Authorities recovered additional bombs that had not detonated. This attack may have been the worst for Nigeria as a country; it took place a few days before they planned to host the World Economic Forum on Africa. Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s former president, told Chinese ambassadors at the time that they “[would] not have a problem with security during the summit”.

Those events are in no way the extent of Boko Haram’s reign in 2014, in fact, they are just a few examples of the many instances this group terrorized Western Africa. Currently, Boko Haram’s death toll is up to 20,000 people. They are also responsible for countless deaths due to malnourishment; “Children already are dying. Doctors Without Borders has warned of a ‘catastrophic humanitarian emergency’ unfolding in the city of Bama, where it said 200 people had died in June and where refugees spoke of children dying of hunger every day”.

So why is this important; what’s the significance in recognizing the terror this group has berated Africa with for 15 years? Well through this piece, I hope to raise awareness of this terrorist group, because the mainstream media seems to overlook it. As a country that has dedicated itself to fighting terrorism, it really seems like we pick and choose which groups are worth our time and effort.

The following satirical exchange between Jon Stewart and Trevor Noah of The Daily Show will further explain this concern.

Although The Daily Show is a news comedy show, they do raise a fair point. The general public disregards terrorism that hits third world countries. Whenever ISIS attacks a first world country, we stand in solidarity with the victims through our social media pages; we change our Facebook profile pictures, or we write touching posts to go on our wall. The Bring Back Our Girls hashtag was one of the few times the American people voiced opposition against this Africa-centric terrorist group, but why doesn’t that happen more often? ISIS constantly terrorizes countries in the Middle East, but we subconsciously look at those attacks as normal. When countries like the U.S. or France are targeted, the general public and media quickly voice disgust for the events. Why don’t we do the same thing for countries in the Middle East or Africa? The aforementioned school shooting by Boko Haram left around 50 people dead, and the support from across the globe was practically non-existent. This type of silence doesn’t seem equitable when we compare it to the uproar following the death of 12 victims in the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The media and the general public need to both do better jobs at paying respect to those who suffer outside of the limelight.