Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Haram of Horrors

The world of war is no stranger to depravity. Modern weapons can wreak horrific damage, often by the push of a button a continent away.

03-04-2014Nigeria_Child-700x336However, some of the most fearsome weapons in modern warfare have a more ancient ancestry. They involve intimidation and humiliation. They include the abduction of an entire school of girls.

“Blood Diamonds” depicted insurgents seizing young boys and turning them into doped-up combatants before they reached puberty. Now Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group in Nigeria, kidnapped 276 schoolgirls last month and brazenly threatened to sell them as slaves, allegedly to please Allah, but more likely to sate a different kind of lust.

Despite cries of protest and outrage, the terrorist gang struck again this week, snatching eight more girls from their homes.

Sending schoolgirls into slavery won’t win any battles or capture any territory. Their slavery is only intended as a chilling reminder of what Boko Haram stands for – a rigid, impersonal belief in a religious code that believes girls belong under the foot of men, not in the seat of learning.

The kidnappings and the government’s slow, almost disinterested response has prompted national and international rebukes, including the United States. Some have charged the Nigerian government is more concerned about the security of an upcoming summit than it is in finding and rescuing the schoolgirls.

Many critics don’t believe the government’s protestations that it doesn’t know where the girls are. Their excuses were laid even more bare when Boko Haram leader Abukar Shekau openly claimed responsibility for the mass abduction and said he intends to sell off the girls because “God instructed me to sell them. They are his properties, and I will carry out his instructions.”

Shekau defended the abductions on grounds the schoolgirls were being inculcated with Western values and turned away from Islam. Now they are being converted to slaves, or worse.

Nigerian children at schoolBoko Haram’s threats haven’t been idle. Schools all over northeast Nigeria have closed, affecting 120,000 students. You wonder what lesson those students, not to mention the abducted schoolgirls, have learned.

Some of the kidnapped girls managed to escape by jumping off trucks or later eluding their captors. Boko Haram says two girls died from snakebites and another 20 are ill. That still leaves as many as 230 schoolgirls missing.

One international report talked of a mass wedding where some of the girls, as young as age 12, were given over as “brides” to Boko Haram fighters. It is unlikely there were many bridal bouquets at that wedding.

While it is easy to point to the loathsome brutality of Boko Haram, we see versions of the same depravity closer to home. A year ago, three women managed to escape captivity after a decade in an unassuming house in Cleveland. Their captor, Ariel Castro, was sentenced to life in prison – plus 1,000 years for bad behavior. Later, it was discovered one of Castro’s neighbors was a murderer and a rapist.

It’s not just a bad neighborhood. It’s a global crime. Whether for religious reasons, repressed sexual appetites or sordid pleasure, the mutilation, murder and enslavement of women is occurring all around us.

Imagine if one of those Nigerian schoolgirls was your daughter, your niece or your granddaughter. What would you do? What do you want done? What you pray could be done? The time has come to ask and answer those questions at home and around the world.

Regardless what a bunch of men with beards, automatic rifles and chips on their shoulders think, women and girls are flesh-and-blood human beings. Their dreams and their potential shouldn’t be sacrificed at anyone’s altar.



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