Living conditions for the more than 240 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by the jihadist group Boko Haram are worsening as they pass 60 days in captivity, according to a human-rights group.
Cameron Thomas, Africa analyst for International Christian Concern, said his sources in Nigeria say three camps in neighboring Niger and Chad are known to be holding at least some of the girls, who were abducted April 15 from their secondary school in Chibok, in Nigeria’s north, where Boko Haram has waged a deadly campaign to impose Islamic law.
“The fact remains that with each passing day, their chance for freedom, yet alone survival, diminishes,” Thomas said.
Some reportedly have been sold off as child brides by their Islamic captors for as little as $12.
“No girl or woman, neither in Nigeria nor beyond, should ever be subjected to treatment as property,” he said.
Thomas said Boko Haram “has made very clear its total lack of respect for women and their human rights.”
Nigeria’s influential former president Olusegun Obasanjo said he now believes some of the girls will never return home.
“We will still be hearing about them many years from now,” he told the BBC’s Hausa-language radio service Thursday.
Fear of further aggression
Thomas said the parents of the girls remain fearful of further aggression from Boko Haram.
An Open Doors staff member who asked not to be identified for security reasons said people in the Chibok area believe Boko Haram could return.
“The atmosphere remains tense in Chibok and surrounding areas. In one of the villages, the local chief, upon seeing us, went into his house and came out with a gun. He wanted to shoot us,” he said. “He thought we were members of Boko Haram because we came by car.”
The villager had to be persuaded to put away his gun, but after he did, he toured to the other villages with the team to see as many of the girls’ parents as possible.
The Open Doors source said the kidnapping has taken a toll on the physical condition of family members.
Local media reported May 22 a father of eight children with two daughters held by Boko Haram died of a heart attack.
He is the second Chibok parent to have died under the pressure of the girls’ kidnapping, the source said.
A mother, Mary Lalai, died of a heart attack shortly after hearing that her daughter was among the abducted.
‘I leave everything to God’
One heartbroken father, Ishaya, told Open Doors in tears that the shock of his daughter’s abduction was so great that it has left him paralyzed.”
“I feel so bad. I cannot even get out of bed. I leave everything to God,” Ishay said, according to the Open Doors source.
Other villagers also are asking God for help.
“We are worried and sad, but we hope in God,” one parent said.
“For as long as she lives, she will look for ways to get back home. By the grace of God, she will return to me,” another villager said, according to Open Doors.
Thomas said Westerners need to remember that the girls’ plight is emblematic of a greater struggle Christians face in northeast Nigeria.
“In bombing churches, Boko Haram has made clear that worshipping on a Sunday could cost you your life,” he said.
“In bombing buses full of Christians making their way to friends and family for Easter, Boko Haram has made clear that respecting Christian traditions can cost you your life,” he continued.
“And now, in abducting more than 240 girls, 90 percent of whom are professed Christians, Boko Haram has made it clear that studying to better yourself can cost you your life. These girls, having their textbooks and Bibles forcefully swapped for Qurans and hijabs, have had their lives taken from them,” Thomas said.
He said churches in the West need to take a stand for their persecuted brothers and sisters in Nigeria.
“The only question that remains is what is Nigeria, the United States, the global church and the international community willing to do to get them back,” Thomas said.
‘Please release my friends’
Two of the schoolgirls who escaped Boko Haram talked about their ordeal.
Morningstar News reported a student named Patience leaped from the back of a Boko Haram truck, injuring her legs, and managed to drag herself under a thorn bush to hide.
The report said one of Patience’s friends also jumped out of the truck and hid with her.
“We saw the gunmen pass the thorn bush where we hid ourselves, but they could not see us. We hid ourselves under the thorn bush until daybreak when my friend decided to move out to find help since I was unable to walk because of my injured legs,” Patience said.
The report said the two girls were able to get home with the help of a Fulani tribesman on a bicycle.
Patience told the Morningstar News she has a message for the kidnappers.
“I have lost all my books, clothing and other valuables. But all these are not important now. I miss all my friends and schoolmates and will like to plead with the gunmen to release them.”