By Devang Pathak:
Twitter Activism has been in existence for years now, but one of its shiny examples came in 2014 with the ‘Bring Our Girls Back’ campaign. Remember how suddenly all your favourite celebrities started using #BringBackOurGirls in their online conversations to appeal for awareness and action? I hate to break the fairy tale but it did exactly what was predicted- fail to make a difference.
Boko Haram is an Islamic militant organisation based out of North-East Nigeria, ideologically similar to the Al-Qaeda and ISIS. What began as a largely non-violent group in 2002, with the aim of creating an Islamic State, has become an increasingly radicalised movement which has turned into a violent nightmare for Africa’s biggest economy. Boko Haram came to international prominence in April 2014 with the kidnapping of 276 girls from a school in Chibok and the subsequent threat by their leader Abubakar Shekau of selling the girls into slavery if their demands were not met.
The world was outraged for the obvious reasons. First Lady of The United States led the charge online which found many famous supporters and many governments came forward with support. The Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan refused to give into Boko Haram’s demands for releasing the girls for which he faced widespread criticism. Then the world moved on.
Boko Haram is back to remind the world of its existence. On January 3rd of this year, they lead a gruesome attack on the Nigerian town of Baga, neighbouring villages and a multinational military base. Amnesty International has reported that the town has been razed and around 2,000 people have been massacred by the militants. The government has denied the high number of casualties with the Western media still awaiting confirmed details of the attack. It is being touted as Boko Haram’s deadliest attack to this date. If that wasn’t enough, the group used a young girl of no more than 10 years as a suicide bomber on 10th January in the city of Maidugiri, killing 20 people and injuring many more. There are signs that the group would now move southwards to complete the conquest of Nigeria.
The kidnapped girls are yet to return home. 57 of the girls were able to escape when they were being transported but 219 girls are yet to be heard from. A small group of parents and concerned citizens keep on fighting while many have even given up hope. Not surprisingly, Twitter didn’t change the world.
The clamour for international support and countless statements did not translate into any decisive action or effort to save the girls. The world moved on to Ebola, ISIS, Ferguson and the scores of other tragedies which we see in the world everyday. But why did we even pick up this issue in the first place?
The oldest conventions of war and conflict have made an exception towards women and children. The modern news world applies the same rules in its reporting, and any tragedy which involves those who are perceived as weak is given a push. The kidnapping of the girls and the horrific predicament of being sold into slavery stirred the moral consciousness of the world.
While Mr. Obama announced military strikes on ISIS in Syria and Iraq, there was no plan of action announced to counter Boko Haram despite the common goal both pursue – the establishment of an Islamic State as per Wahhabism.
One can only wonder how many such massacres and atrocities the citizens of Nigeria must endure from Boko Haram and an aggressive national military, which is itself accused of crimes against civilians, till the world offers a comprehensive support to preserve democracy and freedom. As for us, let us stand in solidarity with those who we can’t reach and directly help, let us get on the streets and demand action, build pressure, tell the world that we can’t be silent and things must change, rather than just squander away that time in Twitter outrage.