The Chibok Girls: The Boko Haram kidnappings and militancy in Nigeria



Helon Habila speaking at the 2015 FLICA writer’s conference in Brazil for his upcoming book: The Chibok Girls.

Stephanie Canto, Crier staff

The term Boko Haram loosely translates to “Western education is abhorrent,” and is a nickname for the insurgent group based in Nigeria, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, or “the People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.”

This group was founded by Mohammed Yusuf around 2002, and, as Helon Habila puts it, calls for “the overthrow of the secular Nigerian government.” The group fights in the name of Islam, and is infamous for the Chibok kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls that occurred the night of April 14, 2014.

Helon Habila is an author and professor at George Mason University who grew up in Nigeria, and has won numerous awards for his fiction and poems. He published The Chibok Girls: The Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria in 2016 through Columbia Global Reports. In the book, Habila visited Chibok personally to gather first-hand accounts of the night of the kidnapping.

I went into this book completely blind to any of the information within. I vaguely remember Michelle Obama’s 2014 campaign #BringBackOurGirls to raise public awareness of the mass kidnapping. However, at that point in my life, I was 14-years-old. It was a time where I was extremely ignorant to global events, and I didn’t think much about Michelle’s campaign then.

Of course, as I grew older, I learned about Boko Haram and some general information about the kidnapping. There were 276 girls taken from the Chibok Girls Secondary School in Borno State, Nigeria. This was also the event that brought international coverage to Boko Haram. But what about after?

Habila describes the history of corrupted politics in Nigeria and how Chibok is still affected by the kidnapping today. Out of the 276 girls that were taken, less than fifty of them have returned to their homes.

Family and friends of the girls still mourn their absence, and the town of Chibok is currently on lockdown and has been neglected by the Nigerian government.

The book reads as an essay and tells the story of Habila’s personal visit to Chibok. His reports are centered around those he interviewed: parents of the kidnapped girls, and even girls who managed to escape the hands of Boko Haram.

This book is void of any of Habila’s personal opinions on Nigerian politics, Chibok, and Boko Haram. It simply contains facts about what actually happened, as well as insight from locals Habila met while in Chibok.

The language is plain and concise, but the information within still created an emotional connection to the story Habila was telling.

On Oct. 17 at 6 p.m., Helon Habila is coming to campus to discuss “Religion, Politics, and the Literary Landscape in Contemporary Nigeria.” The event will be held in the Student Center auditorium and is open and free to the public.

I think The Chibok Girls is an extremely important book. It reads quick and easy while it simultaneously provides crucial information on Nigerian politics and history. I learned so much about Chibok and the effects that Boko Haram has on the communities surrounding it.

The book is chock-full of information that I could easily relay to you here, but this book is definitely worth reading.