Nigerians living in the Boston area rallied across from the State House Thursday to demand the safe return of more than 270 young girls who were kidnapped last month in their native country by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram.
More than two dozen demonstrators shouted chants including “Bring back our girls!” and “Destroy Boko Haram!” They also carried signs bearing slogans such as “Enough is Enough” and “Boko Haram is a Threat to the World.”
Protesters read the names of several abducted children, who were kidnapped from a boarding school April 15 in the northeastern village of Chibok.
There were reports Tuesday of another 11 girls being taken from the villages of Warabe and Wala.
On Thursday, demonstrators in Boston shouted “Bring her back” each time the name of a kidnapped girl was read aloud. Fifty-three girls taken from the Chibok school have escaped, and 276 remain in captivity. At least two have died.
Boko Haram has threatened to sell the girls still being held.
Many in the crowd in Boston criticized the Nigerian government for what they said is a failure to adequately address the threat posed by the terrorist group known for brutal attacks that have killed thousands of people.
“Our government just does not have the moral courage to deal with the situation,” said Ronke Olawale, a journalist who has reported in Lagos, Nigeria and who held a sign that said, “Nigerian politicians in fortresses, our girls in forest.”
Another demonstrator, Iyabo Obasanjo, is a former senator in Nigeria.
“I thought it was my responsibility to participate [in the rally] and show solidarity” with the kidnapping victims, she said. “Life is already hard enough in Nigeria for young girls.”
Asked what can be done to defeat Boko Haram, the former lawmaker said, “I think it has to be seen as an international security threat,” adding that the antigovernment, anti-Western group has discouraged people from getting vaccinated for polio and killed providers who have offered the vaccine.
She said the group and its violent ideology would spread if left unchecked. “It’s like a disease,” she said.
Efosa Ojomo, a student at Harvard Business School, said another rally is planned for Friday afternoon on campus.
He said demonstrations and social media campaigns highlighting the plight of the kidnapped girls started in response to “a perception that the government was not doing anything about this.”
Aminu Gamawa, a Muslim lawyer, noted to demonstrators that Boko Haram has also targeted moderate Islamic scholars, and he issued a call for unity among Nigerians regardless of faith.
“Please don’t allow anybody to use religion to divide you in this cause,” he told the group of demonstrators, which included Christians and Muslims.