By Benjamin Weinthal
Published November 19, 2013
The Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram (translated: “Western education is sinful”) which numbers as many as 5,000, seeks to establish a Sharia law state in Northern Nigeria. According to this article, one of their methods is to kidnap Christians. The article relates the experience of Hajja, a 19 year old Christian woman who now lives in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. Her last name has been withheld due to fears that her family in northern Nigeria might face reprisal from Boko Haram. Hajja claims that she was kidnapped and held for three months, forced to work as a domestic slave. She witnessed brutal murders and was forced at knifepoint to convert to Islam. According to Rep. Eliot Engel, D-NY, Boko Haram is well known for “heinous attacks against the citizens of northern Nigeria.” Last week, the State Department designated the group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, and reports that they are responsible for thousands of deaths over several years and they target civilians. Tiffany Lynch is a senior policy analyst at the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and would like to see the US do more to assist the Nigerian government in dealing with Boko Haram and supporting those in Nigeria who denounce the organization. David Cook, professor of religious studies at Rice University and a leading expert on Boko Haram, confirms that Hajja’s story fits the pattern of the group, and says that the group has a “stated goal of expelling all Christians in northeastern Nigera and northern Nigeria in general.” A Nigerian diplomat insists that Hajja’s account is “absolutely not true.” Over the last year, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan a Christian from the south, has been using the military to root out Boko Haram. Author of this story Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and reports on the persecution of Christians.
I searched around a little bit and found a Huffington Post article from August of this year here explaining how the ICC has been investigating Boko Haram for crimes against humanity. The ICC prosecutor said that the crimes include murder and persecution but full investigation and prosecution by the ICC will depend on further study and whether or not Nigerian authorities are willing and able to prosecute. The prosecutor also noted that Nigerian government forces may have violated human rights in their operations against Boko Haram, but didn’t target civilians.
It’s difficult to comment on this. It’s such a mess in that part of the world, governments are fragile, and people on all sides are willing to resort to the most heinous acts to further their cause whatever it is. Every time there’s even a glimmer of what we would call democracy opposing forces do their best to stomp it out. My first instinct is to send special-forces to wipe such groups out, but that rarely works out like it should. It’s frustrating because horrific things are happening to individuals who have little hope of improving their circumstances. It would sure be nice if there was an easy answer.