Tearful parents watch new Chibok girls’ video

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Tearful parents watch new Chibok girls’ video

Tearful parents watch new Chibok girls’ video
April 14
06:58 2016

Three mothers of schoolgirls abducted from Chibok, Borno State two years ago shed tears as they identified their daughters in a video released by Boko Haram.

About 15 girls featured in the video on Tuesday in Maiduguri, the state capital.

The girls were filmed saying they were being treated well but wanted to go home and be with their families.

Boko Haram abducted 276 schoolgirls from Chibok on April 14, 2014, with 57 students managing to escape but 219 still missing despite a global campaign #bringbackourgirls involving celebrities and U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama.

Mothers Rifkatu Ayuba and Mary Ishaya said they recognised their daughters, Saratu and Hauwa, in the video, while a third mother, Yana Galang, identified five of the missing girls.

“The girls were looking very, very well,” Galang said in a telephone interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation after viewing the video at a screening organised in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.

The three mothers were invited to the viewing by the chairman of Chibok Local Government Area, Bana Lawan, who confirmed that he paid their travel costs to Maiduguri.

During the screening Ayuba screamed: “My Saratu!” and wailed, reaching out to a laptop screen, the closest she had been to her child now 17, in two years.

Saratu Ayuba is one of 15 girls seen in the recording shown to some of the families for the first time at an emotional meeting this week. Wearing a purple abaya, with a patterned brown scarf covering her hair, Saratu stares directly into the camera.

“I felt like removing her from the screen,” Ayuba told CNN, desperate to pluck Saratu from the mysterious location where she is being held and bring her home. “If I could, I would have removed her from the screen.”

The video is believed to have been made last December as part of negotiations between the government and Boko Haram.

It was released by someone keen to give the girls’ parents hope that some of their daughters are still alive, and to motivate the government to help release them.

The girls, their hair covered and wearing long, flowing robes, line up against a dirty yellow wall. They show no obvious signs of maltreatment.

As the camera focuses in on each of them, a man behind the camera fires off questions: “What’s your name? Was that your name at school? Where were you taken from?”

One by one, each girl calmly states her name and explains that she was taken from Chibok Government Secondary School. Only the occasional hesitation betrays a flicker of fear and emotion.

As the two minute clip comes to an end, one of the girls, Naomi Zakaria, makes a final — apparently scripted — appeal to whoever is watching, urging the Nigerian authorities to help reunite the girls with their families.

“I am speaking on 25 December 2015, on behalf of all the Chibok girls and we are all well,” she says, stressing the word “all.” Her intonation seems to imply that the 15 teens seen in the video have been chosen to represent the group as a whole.

The date given by Naomi matches information embedded in the video, suggesting it was filmed on Christmas Day, though whether that’s true or whether the day was picked deliberately is unknown.

Most of the 276 girls taken from Chibok on April 14, 2014 were Christian. They are believed to have been forced to convert to Islam by their terrorist captors.

Their kidnapping — and a lack of progress in tracking down and returning the girls — sparked mass protests in Nigeria and across the world, with luminaries including Michelle Obama and Malala Yousafzai joining the social media campaign to #BringBackOurGirls

Classmate’s escape

The Federal Government said it has a copy of the “proof of life” video, and that it is in negotiations with those who supplied it to secure the girls’ release, but says it remains unable to confirm or reject the recording’s authenticity.

Minister of Information Lai Mohammed, said there were concerns that the girls did not appear to have changed sufficiently, that they are not as different as one might expect, given the two years that have elapsed since their disappearance.

CNN spoke to a classmate of the girls seen in the footage, who confirmed the identity of several of her friends.

The soft-spoken teen was supposed to be at the school that Sunday night to sit exams along with the other girls, but made a last minute decision to go home, from where she could hear the school being attacked.

“We ran into the bush and stayed there for a month,” she says.

Watching the video, she becomes emotional, exclaiming ‘Oh my God!’ as she recognizes a close friend, points out another who was in the same hostel as her, and identifies one of the school’s prefects, a leader in her class.

While she considers herself one of the “lucky ones,” the teenager says she still has nightmares about the experience.

“If I hear something on the news about them, it makes me have bad dreams and I cry,” she said.

Galang looked and looked, but her daughter Rifqata was not among the captives shown in the video.

“We have seen enough,” she says eventually. “We know that the girls are alive and they are hidden. We are not worried. Our daughters look well.

“We have heard a lot of stories before but this video confirms that they are alive. The government should negotiate with Boko Haram.”

“I didn’t see my daughter but I now have more hope that she is alive,” she told CNNand her friends. “You can see what is yours on the screen but you can’t get it. All we want is our daughters.”

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