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Girls & Women

Boko Haram Didn’t Plan to Kidnap the Chibok Girls in Nigeria, According to Secret Diaries

In this photo released by the Nigeria State House, Nigeria President, Muhammadu Buhari, centre, meets with Chibok school girls recently freed from Nigeria Extremist captivity in Abuja, Nigeria, Sunday, May 7, 2017. Five Boko Haram commanders were released in exchange for the freedom of 82 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by the extremist group three years ago, a Nigerian government official said Sunday, as the girls were expected to meet with the country's president and their families.
Bayo Omoboriowo/Nigeria State House/AP

They came to rob the place, but ended up kidnapping more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls.

In April of 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from a boarding school in the town of Chibok, Nigeria, in the middle of the night, according to CNN. The militant group — whose name roughly translates to “Western education is a sin” — had been targeting schools in Nigeria because it believes Western education, including education for girls, “corrupts” Muslim values, according to the BBC. As a result, many assumed the school in Chibok was targeted for the same reason. 

However, according to secret diaries the kidnapped girls kept while in captivity, Boko Haram did not plan to kidnap the girls that night. In the diaries, a copy of which the Thomson Reuters Foundation has obtained, the girls recorded the details of that night and their captivity.

Read more: Malala’s ‘Girl Power Trip’ Includes Meeting School Girls in Nigeria, Condemning Boko Haram

Naomi Adamu, one of the girls taken that night, wrote in the diaries that Boko Haram had actually attacked the school in order to steal machinery to build houses. While the militants were unable to find the machinery, they did find the girls.

The girls recorded snippets of conversation between the militants that they overheard.

"One boy said they should burn us all, and they (some of the other fighters) said: 'No, let us take them with us to Sambisa (Boko Haram's remote forest base) ... if we take them to Shekau (the group's leader), he will know what to do'," the diary says.

Ultimately, they took the girls, many of whom remain in captivity today. To date, at least 57 girls have escaped and more than 80 girls were set free in May, according to Al Jazeera. Adamu was among those released in May, though her friend Sarah Samuel, who wrote the diaries with Adamu and three other girls, her remains with the group.

Like several other girls, Samuel is now married to a Boko Haram militant. "She got married because of no food, no water," Adamu told Thomson Reuters. Stories like these are not uncommon. Boko Haram offers child brides to fighters as rewards and uses them to entice recruits, according to the New York Times.

Read more: YES. Kidnapped Nigerian School Girls to Return to School This Fall

Of the many girls who have been freed over the last year, some are now mothers, while other required medical attention. Since their release, the girls have been receiving treatment through a government rehabilitation program, according to Thomson Reuters.

Fortunately, Nigeria’s minister of women affairs, Aisha Jummai Alhassan, announced today that the girls are ready to return to their homes and communities. "They are now stabilized and most of their traumatic stress disorder symptoms have been overcome and previously frequent incidents of flashbacks, insomnia and nightmares have now been successfully brought under control," she said.

The 2014 mass kidnapping sparked global outcry. The #BringBackOurGirls campaign to free the schoolgirls went viral and was supported by then First Lady of the US Michelle Obama and celebrities like Global Citizen Alicia Keys.

The Nigerian government continues to negotiate with Boko Haram for the release of the other Chibok girls, as well as other children the group has abducted. According to Amnesty International, Boko Haram has taken around 2,000 children to use as sex slaves, fighters, and suicide bombers since 2014.

Read more: Report Reveals the Sick Reason Boko Haram Uses Young Girls as Suicide Bombers

Though the authenticity of the diaries cannot be verified yet, the girls’ recollections are bringing new details to the public’s attention.

Global Citizen campaign to #LeveltheLaw, against child marriage and in support of gender equality. Take action here to support girls’ right to choose if, whom, and when they marry.