3 Years After the Dapchi Kidnapping: Leah Sharibu Remains in Captivity

Source:               www.jubileecampaign.org

Date:                     February 20, 2021


Three years ago on 19 February 2018, some 110 Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted from Government Girls' Science School in Dapchi by Islamic jihadist militant faction Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). Although each of the abducted girls had been released and returned home by March 2018 - except for a few that had passed away during the kidnapping - one remains in captivity three years later. Leah Sharibu, who was 14 years at old on the fateful day of her abduction, has spent three years and two birthdays in Boko Haram captivity, all for her faith.
Upon the safe return of the 104 kidnapped girls, they informed Leah's family and teachers that she was denied release on account that she refused to renounce Christianity at the requests of her kidnappers. Leah's mother, Rebecca Sharibu, reflected on how the survivors informed her that Leah was repeatedly instructed to wear a hijab, convert to Islam, and recite the Kalima Shahada. Leah, steadfast in her faith, repeatedly refused.
In December 2019, Jennifer Ukambong Samuel, an aid worker for Action for International Medical Alliance, was abducted by the same Boko Haram faction of ISWAP that Leah was kidnapped by. In June 2020, upon her release, Ms. Samuel confirmed that Leah was both alive and well.
One month later in July 2020, however, rumors had begun to spread stating that Leah Sharibu had converted to Islam, married one of her captors, and given birth to a child. In response to these rumors, Nigerian reverend and close friend of the Sharibu family has expressed that he believes that if it is true that Leah had married and become a mother, she had been forced to do so:
"I would not believe that Leah at that age would consent to become a mother. She wanted to go to university and she would be starting university now but she is still in captivity. If they forced her and raped her, we cannot say that she consented."
Now on the third anniversary of the Dapchi kidnapping, Jubilee Campaign once again joins the call for the immediate and unconditional release of Leah Sharibu, and for an end to all abductions, forced conversions, and marriages of Nigerian girls. We also echo the concerns of Ayo Adedoyin, chief executive of the UK branch of The International Organisation for Peace & Social Justice, who says:
"For girls her age around the world, this time in life means a discovery of self Not so for the hundreds or thousands of innocent young women held captive across Nigeria by brutal terrorist gangs, with no signs of their whereabouts for their families to digest, and no sign of their lengthy ordeals coming to an end."
Finally, we lament that on 17 February 2021, just two days before the anniversary of the Dapchi kidnapping, another group of 40 Nigerian schoolchildren were abducted from their Government Science College in Kagara by unidentified gunmen. This incident is just one in a string of mass abductions, including the December 2020 kidnapping and 6-days-later release of 300 schoolboys from Government Science Secondary School in Kankara. The Nigerian government must act to eradicate all kidnappings of Nigerian children, young boys and girls, and provide security to these most vulnerable citizens.
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