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Schoolgirl Abduction Is Latest In Nigeria's Sad Lineage Of Kidnappings


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan vowed today that the kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls in that country will be the beginning of the end of terror. In a speech, he also thanked the U.S. and several other countries for offers to help rescue the girls. The teenagers were taken from their boarding school dormitory more than three weeks ago. Since then, other girls have also been kidnapped.

Mausi Segun is the Nigeria researcher for Human Rights Watch. She says the school in Borno had been shutdown since February because of threats from Boko Haram. But the girls and their families felt it was important for them to return to take final exams.

MAUSI SEGUN: They must have been excited for their parents to be willing to take the risk to send them back to school, knowing that the Boko Haram camp was less than two hours away, but they probably felt they were really (unintelligible). They were just going to be in school in maximum of about two weeks, just to write those examinations.

BLOCK: So willing to take that risk because to graduate, to get a degree to go on to college, would be a very big deal.

SEGUN: It definitely would be, would mean the difference between a life of poverty and a life of a reasonable existence, where you can at least earn a living. In Nigeria, a certificate of education is worth more than anything else. An education, especially a tertiary education, would take them way beyond that community and probably into the state offices in the capital and (unintelligible), even so Abuja or Lagos, the two biggest cities in the country.

BLOCK: In cases of abduction like this, what's the pattern you've seen, specifically when girls have been taken, kidnapped by Boko Haram? What has happened to them?

SEGUN: What we were able to document was that when eventually those that did return, when they would return they would return pregnant or with young babies. A couple of the girls found their way back home themselves, who described to us how Boko Haram members had abandoned these girls in the bush because they probably saw them, a pregnant girl or a girl with a young baby as a kind of a burden when they had to move about so quickly.

And, of course, once they dispose of those ones, you can be sure that another abduction would take place. They would snatch children, girls and women, off the streets. And sometimes they've also been known to walk into homes and drag off the girls of their choice, and for some forms of money at the parents of the girls, for the declaration that the girls had now become their wives.

It's clearly some sort of sexual violence goes on there because, of course, the girls are forcefully taken away. And many that do return, return with pregnancies and return with babies. I mean those that I was able to document were so traumatized they couldn't say, speak a word, even months afterwards. And in that environment there is a lot of stigmatization that anything that has to do with sex, especially when it comes to women.

BLOCK: I was wondering about that. Assuming that these girls are found and are returned to their communities, are you concerned about how they will be received if, in fact, they were sold as sex slaves and the stigma that's attached to that?

SEGUN: One of the problems and the concerns that we have is that there isn't any measure in place to provide any kind of treatment for these girls, whether health-wise, psychologically. The structure isn't there. The facilities aren't there. The personnel really isn't there. It's something that is part of the calls that we're making, that those things be put in place to provide support for the girls and their families, those that have returned already and those that we hope will be returned soon.

BLOCK: I've been talking with Mausi Segun. She's the Nigeria researcher for Human Rights Watch in Abuja.

Ms. Segun, thanks very much.

SEGUN: Thank you. It was my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.