May 2014: #Bring Back Our Girls

The world is horrified by the kidnapping of the 200+ Chibok schoolgirls in the north-eastern part of Nigeria by Boko Haram, an armed militant Islamist group set against the basic right to life and the right to an education; and, as well, by the fact that the Nigerian government had advance warning but did little to intervene.

Abducted on 14 April, 2014, we are all aghast and holding our breath in the hope that the unprecedented global social media led campaign #BringBackOurGirls will aid in the release and safe return of these girls. Because otherwise we all know they will end up dead, forcibly married or sold on as slaves.

The video footage released yesterday by Boko Haram’s leader Abubaker Shekau just goes to show how low he is willing to go by demanding the return of his imprisoned men in exchange for the girls, who all appeared rather frightened and scared kept and hidden in a jungle place.

Almost two million Tweets have so far circulated with the above hash-tag including the latest one from the Vatican Pope Francis @Pontifex - he has over 11million followers! Whilst the portrait photos of individuals with the hand-made placards are still coming in, having started with the US First Lady Michelle Obama and later including the British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The big question, of course, is whether or not this social-media led frenzy will make any difference to the fate of the captives and translate into real political action. So far, the US, the UK, France and China have at least pledged security and intelligence support for the Nigerian government to find the girls and ensure their safe return in this particular case.


But the sad reality of course is the existence of Boko Haram in the first place, a militant Islamist group who in Nigeria are but continuing with a systematic terror campaign since 2009. It has seen them bombing, killing, abducting and destroying many targets as well as their specific aim against the Western style of education by attacking schools, teachers and students.

To shed some light on this, I refer you to the Amnesty International Report ‘Right to Education Under Attack in Nigeria’:

How can the world respond to the twisted logic of Boko Haram - and the many similar radical Islamist groups in other countries - that sees them justify their evil deeds in the name of Allah? It is a most frightening predicament indeed and things are obviously far more complicated than what at first appears.

But let us see what happens in the next few days into the Nigerian Chibok case; and, especially, taking into account the online campaign that organically grew and has so far taken a positive turn by influencing some of the world politicians to intervene.

I do wonder- not wanting to be overly optimistic- if this could herald a future world order where every common concerned citizen is able to start or join in important global campaigns that can galvanise and bring about political change through cyber-sphere with just a little Tweet?