I was momentarily encouraged by the on-line social media support for the 289 16-18 year old Chibok Christian girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram from the Chibok Secondary School on 14 April 2014 at around 11:45pm. The Boko Haram leader from Nigeria released a video on the 5 May 2014 claiming responsibility for the kidnapping. This act was a direct attack on Christians, on Education and on Women. Boko Haram are a self proclaimed terrorist group, and believe they have a right to kill, enslave and plunder people who they count as their enemies. Their enemies include Christians. Boko Haram also believes women should not be educated, seeking to stir up fear and emotional trauma against those who defy their beliefs. Boko Haram is undeniably a religious extremist terrorist group, espousing Islamic teachings.
The kidnapped girls have reported to have been sold off as wives, or prostitutes to Muslim men. The leader of Boko Haram in the region was recorded on video as saying that ‘by Allah’ he will go to market and sell the girls, because his religion permits him to do so.
Hasram HhH The reality of this shocking crime captured the world’s attention, with even the First Lady of the United States of America getting behind the ‘Bring Back our Girls’ campaign. Since their abduction 53 girls were able to escape, due to one of their transport vehicles breaking down. The rest of the girls remain un-rescued.
Regardless of the worldwide media and social media attention this horrific injustice received, it did not bring about international pressure of Nigeria, international sanctions, nor did it bring about government intervention that would lead to the rescue of these girls. Why is this?
This crime cuts across various international human rights violations, including slavery and trafficking under the Trafficking Protocol, cruel, degrading treatment under the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and a restriction on the freedom of movement for these girls under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is also a violation on the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Violence Against Women. But, so what? Does this matter to Nigeria? Does this matter to Boko Haram?
Regardless of the fact that Nigeria are not signatories to these international instruments, and given the influence of Sharia law in the state, it is arguable whether Nigeria would recognise these customary international human rights norms. The first step in addressing this abhorrent crime is to recognise the criminal actors behind the kidnappings as an extremist Muslim group who are self proclaimed terrorists.
Secondly, we are to recognise that states which adhere to Sharia legal system domestically, are not likely to recongnise the aforementioned international instruments, but more likely to adhere to the Cairo Declaration, which has its own human rights standards, subject to Sharia law.
The reality is, these kind of abhorrent crimes against humanity are occurring every day to Christians across the world. A present example of this is found in Meriam from Sudan, who, for a false accusation of apostasy under Sharia law received 100 lashes while 8 months pregnant, followed by detention while she awaits her death sentence to be carried out. The other reality we must face is, Sharia States adhere to a totally different regime of human rights norms, often in conflict with those we would recognise, and Sharia States will continue to uphold Sharia law as their ultimate point of reference for their legal norms.
In other words, these acts are consistent with Sharia systems and in direct conflict with what we would consider international human rights norms. These abhorrent human rights violations will therefore continue, as this conflict in norms and standards continues to exist.