When I saw this picture, it filled me with revulsion because, unlike images of violence that you can screen or turn away from, this was 'inviting' the viewer to participate. It was trying to co-opt the world.
The Boko Haram claimed they had converted some of the girls they had kidnapped to Islam. They are dressed in veils and ostensibly reading from a religious text. Who would believe in the exemplariness of this? Those who wish to, and there are many of those. The Islamists because it just adds to the numbers and makes them appear as the voice of the faith. The critics, and more than likely Islamophobes, because it is easier to condemn a religion-based act using the passive-aggressive strategy of 'your faith did it, but all religions are in essence about goodness'.
Now, since the Boko Haram are not about goodness, the saviours will emotionally and intellectually baptise those who might feel guilty by association.
In all this, nobody cares asking the questions that matter: Who converted the girls? Was it a religious head? What was the procedure? The Boko Haram guys are certainly not qualified to convert anyone. And in what language are the girls reading the holy text? Chances are the terrorists themselves do not know how to read, and probably do not even pray.
Forced conversions are a sore point, and being held hostage these girls could well also become hostage to the faith, for it probably offered them respite from the savagery of their kidnappers.
[An unrelated analogy would be the missionaries who make 'backward' class and caste communities feel indebted for removing the slurs on them.]
On another note there is the assumption that such militants are less frightened of drones than they are of girls studying. This is ridiculous, and we saw how it worked out during the Malala moment. The problem with this analysis is that it ignores the reality that some examples do not represent the entire truth. Nigeria has not shut down schools for girls. In Swat where Malala was shot at there were other schools even at the time.
By going along with this anti-school idea, we boost the confidence of militants. In fact, it helps consolidate the view that certain societies are illiterate or uneducated, especially when they have made remarkable contributions in the public sphere globally.
As regards drones, if the world believes terrorists are afraid at all, then why do they aim so badly as to target the innocent population? If the terrorists are afraid, why do they hide? And why the attempt to justify drones that don't have philanthropic intent?
Senator John McCain has said:
“If they knew where they were, I certainly would send in U.S. troops to rescue them, in a New York minute I would, without permission of the host country. I wouldn’t be waiting for some kind of permission from some guy named Goodluck Jonathan."
Such is the arrogance that even the Nigerian President does not matter. Why is the US not interested in capturing the terrorists and only rescuing the girls?
“If we rescued these young girls, it would be the high point of the [President Obama’s] popularity.”
Such is the opportunism.
Update, May 18
70 members of the Boko Haram have been killed by villagers in a town in Adamawa State, as this report states:
It was gathered that the civilian forces acted upon a piece of information by a local food vendor that the terror group were coming to get food before heading out for a major operation to raid villages in the area.
According to SaharaReporters, the group mobilized, laid ambush and waited patiently for the militants.
Sounds great. Now, what I cannot understand is why hardened criminals would go to get food in such large numbers. It just does not make sense. A hundred? And villagers "pounced on" these "gunmen"?
A member of the vigilante group said the Nigerian soldiers appear unable or unwilling to wage an effective war against the insurgents. “They (soldiers) seem to be helpless and to fear the Boko Haram warriors who terrorize us here. But we are not afraid. They are men like us. And we are tired of folding our hands and allowing them to kill us, to kill our wives and to kill our children.”
By "men like us" does it imply that the locals have better means to tackle the group? Are the soldiers under any government diktat to lay off? Or are these vigilante villagers provided for to be frontmen or, perhaps more, by unseen powers?
Nigeria's natural resources are there for the picking.
© Farzana Versey
Also Boko Haram and the Defensive Brigade