TODAY’S COMMENTARY: BOKO HARAM STRIKES AGAIN
Discussion of the latest kidnappings of women, girls and boys across Nigeria
By Ellie Parrish, Dhruv Sethi, Joe Ditripani, Breann Dick, and Zammy Loyna
Boko Haram is a Jihadist terrorist organization located mainly in northern Cameroon, Niger, and northeastern Nigeria. It strongly opposes Westernization and has an ultimate goal of creating a pure Islamic state. The organization is commonly known to attack villages and community areas like schools and churches, and often takes hostages for negotiating purposes.
Boko Haram was officially founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf, who created a religious complex (mosque and school) with the actual intent of jihadist recruitment. After about 7 years, it carried out its first attack in Borno which caused the death of 4 people. Since then, Boko Haram has been linked to 10,000 deaths from 2002-2013, with several hundred more already this year.
More specifically, Boko Haram has a history of kidnapping girls in Nigeria. They often hold girls captive for years at a time, waiting for the release of specific prisoners that are part of their organization. Because they are also against the education of women, kidnapping girls for long periods of time achieves the goal of preventing their educations as well. They’ve been kidnapping girls for years, and the reason a rescue effort is very difficult is because the groups of girls have been divided into many smaller groups. This creates a search zone that is thousands of miles large.
The type of Islam that Boko Haram associates with is one that forbids anything, both political and social, to do with Western society. Even the name Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden.” The US declared it a terrorist group in 2013, but it’s unclear how strong its ties are with Al-Qaeda.
Two months after the kidnapping of over 200 girls from a boarding school in NorthEastern Nigeria, 91 more individuals have been abducted by Boko Haram. This group includes 60 girls and women, and 31 boys. They were kidnapped from villages south of the capital of Borno. 30 people were also killed during the village raid. 270 of the girls kidnapped in April 2014 are still missing, and the militant group has also been linked to other crimes in the area, including bombings of public venues screening the FIFA World Cup. The Nigerian government, under international scrutiny, struggles to find safe ways to bring the victims back to their families without cooperating with the demands of Boko Haram, who have offered to exchange those kidnapped for members of their group who have been imprisoned by the Nigerian government. The Nigerian government continues to try and obtain the women and children who have been abducted, and protect their citizens; however, their military is stretched thin and they are unable to protect all of the villages and rural areas in their country.
Renowned sociologist and professor at Devry University, Bartholomew Wright, has analyzed the Boko Haram kidnappings from three sociological theories and given The Riverview Press an exclusive perspective and inside look from the mind of a sociologist.
Conflict Theory Perspective
Based on what we’ve learned above about the recent Boko Haram kidnappings, it’s important to understand how we can take a look at these recent events from a conflict standpoint. I am going to discuss this in three different ways, each looking at culture, structure, and power so that we can gain a better perspective and shed new light on this greatly controversial topic today.
This is not the first instance where Boko Haram has proceeded to kidnap hundreds of Nigerian citizens, and so what comes into question is the cultural implications that may be responsible for this behavior. As we can see, Boko Haram is using self guided interest and privilege and holding themselves above all of the other people of Nigeria in order to commit this horrible act. Boko Haram is clearly causing oppression of the people of Nigeria from the thousands of deaths he has caused to the hundreds of kidnapping of innocent women and children. These very actions are what would have caused Boko Haram to have been named a terrorist organization and become enemies of countries including the United States. The cultural impact on Nigeria has led to development of a higher group oppressing such individuals similar to Marxist theory of seeing power at the core of the social life of Nigeria.
The structure involving the Boko Haram organization has lent itself to its creation of itself as a dominant group of the region, and as such has become a formidable enemy against the people of Nigeria as well as the United States. Not only has Boko Haram used the threat of force against the Nigerian population, it has taken action and shown itself as an enemy by capturing hundreds of women and children over not just the past we weeks, but months. In order to contribute to the change of this organization and and to save the lives of those in Nigeria, it is important to take collective action, and rise up against Boko Haram together, as a country, as well as internationally. This I hypothesize would be coordinated by the United Nations as they have recently blacklisted the leadership, but it will require a little more effort in order to eradicate the reign of Boko Haram over the population.
In regards to the power of the Boko Haram, it is a dominant group that has reached its position of power through exploit innocent people as well as causing oppression. Mohammed Yusuf, the demagogue cited as who started the organization, created ideologies challenging Darwinism that led to a radical uptake in power creating a rift in power amongst Nigerians. This transfer of power is not limited to the country of Nigeria but has also caused havoc internationally.
Based off the recent conflicts occurring in Nigeria related to the Boko Haram kidnappings, it is evident that method of control by the organization is using conflict theory primarily to not only cause unrest amongst humanity but also across the world whether it is due to the western televised media focus to social media.
Functionalist Theory Perspective
The education provided to the girls who were kidnapped, enables order, stability and productivity. Education plays it particular purpose in the functionality of a society. By kidnapping these girls, Boko Haram emphasizes terror and focuses on the disorganization of a unified, prosperous education system and society. Deviant behavior, such as that exhibited by Boko Haram is detrimental in societal components that aim to achieve stability. In this occurrence, manifest function was the girls attending school. As explained by BBC news, “Boko Haram has also stepped up its campaign against Western education, which it believes corrupts the moral values of Muslims, especially girls, by attacking two boarding schools – in Yobe in March and in Chibok in April.”
Henceforth, when one part of the system is not working or is dysfunctional, it affects all other parts and creates social problems, which leads to social change. However, Boko haram’s latent function and mission was to inhibit the schooling of these girls and control society by using the school as a recruiting ground for jihadis. Fear is also a major factor controlling and creating conflict within the society. For instance, Boko Haram has created and instilled enough fear in the Nigerian citizens, that it has justified the inhibition of action. In order for something to be functional, the society must agree for there to be complete stability and welfare. In this instance however social change is undesirable due to the continuous fear of the nigerian citizens. Overall, the functionalist theory is very poor in this regard, due to the fact that there is no social order demonstrated whatsoever and the society remains relatively unstable.
Symbolic Interactionist Perspective
The use of the hashtag #bringbackourgirls on Twitter for the kidnappings in April 2014 was a way that people all over the globe tried to commiserate with those families that had had a child taken from them. Celebrities including Amy Poehler and Michelle Obama tweeted pictures of themselves holding hashtagged paper signs; thousands of people used the hashtag in their tweets. By using the hashtag to link to other people who were also concerned about this topic, Twitter (and Facebook, Tumblr, and other social networking sites) became a way to grieve and express concern for global events that one has little control over. However, there were arguments that the focus on the social networking aspect of the movement was disrespectful of the families of those abducted. Model Irina Shayk upset posted a topless photo of herself holding a hashtagged sign and faced online backlash calling her “tasteless.” The use of “social media activism” has been accused of being empty of any real meaning, and an easy way for individuals to feel as if they had contributed to the movement with no real effort and no tangible outcome; despite the thousands of tweets and facebook groups concerning the abductees, the girls were, in fact, not brought back. Currently, the hashtag is not trending, despite almost a hundred more people having been kidnapped. Outside of the internet, there have also been prayer vigils and other signs of remembrance for the people who remain missing. Acts of solidarity help to create community bonds and create safe spaces for grievance. The media attention for this incident is indicative of the global networking that is a product of social media; people feel akin to those who have been hurt in Nigeria, and invoke sentiments of brotherhood and empathy for the missing students and villagers.
Boko Haram Suspected of New Kidnappings in Nigeria
The New York Times, 2014
Macpherson, Robert. “Missing Nigerian girls – from #bringbackourgirls hashtag to global action.” Sydney Morning Herald. 9 May 2014. Web. http://www.smh.com.au/world/missing-nigerian-girls–from-bringbackourgirls-hashtag-to-global-action-20140509-zr7d0.htm
“Michelle Obama slams Boko Haram for kidnapping Nigerian girls.” South China Morning Post. 11 May 2014. Web. http://www.scmp.com/news/world/article/1509217/michelle-obama-slams-boko-haram-kidnapping-nigerian-schoolgirls