Everything You Need to Know About Boko Haram

Boko Haram is a terrorist group that aims to create an Islamic state in northeastern Nigeria. Since its founding in 2002, the group has killed 20,000 people and displaced 2.3 million more in the conflict it has created. The groups name translates to “Western Education is Forbidden,” and this aspect of Boko Haram’s philosophy is what brought organization into the global spotlight in 2014 with the kidnapping of 300 schoolgirls. This action mobilized much of Western media with the “Bring Back our Girls” campaign which was supported by Michelle Obama, Amy Poehler, and Kim Kardashian.

Since then, the media focus has shifted to other issues while the Nigerian school girls that the whole world was focused on finding for a brief moment have fallen to the wayside. According to member of the Nigerian Security Network, Ryan Cummings, it is likely that they have been victims of human trafficking, trained as suicide bombers, or made to marry Boko Haram combatants. This isn’t the only atrocity that has been committed by Boko Haram. The most recent large scale attack occurred in February of 2016 when Boko Haram burned a Nigerian village to the ground, killing dozens.

Some theorists believe that the reason Boko Haram has grown so rapidly is because much of Nigeria shares Boko Haram’s dissatisfaction with the corrupt Nigeran government. When Boko Haram was formed in 2002 by Mohammad Yusuf, it intended to rid Nigeria of the Western morals that Yusuf blamed for corrupting the government. Boko Haram was peaceful until Yusuf was executed by the police in 2009. Only then did the group that had up until that point been supported by civil servants and students turn violent. According to the BBC, “The threat Boko Haram poses will disappear only if Nigeria's government manages to reduce the region's chronic poverty and builds an education system which gains the support of local Muslims.”

Since 2002, Boko Haram has earned the macabre title of deadliest terrorist group in the world. Still much of the West is unaware this group exists since most of the media coverage is focused on groups like Al Qaeda and ISlL, who have a more direct effect on the west. Meanwhile Boko Haram is slowly creeping into other African countries, with a measurable presence and several attacks in Niger, Cameroon, and Chad.

The lack of media coverage around the most deadly terrorist group in the world poses the question of how much of our awareness is shaped by the media, and how much of it should be. If a group isn’t a threat to the West, should the West care? Is it important to be aware of issues in other countries? How much should the USA be doing to regulate the rest of the world? Mainly, is this our problem?

text: ariela rosenzweig
visual: ciana malchione
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