A year ago, members of the terrorist group Boko Haram abducted teenager Saa and nearly 300 other girls from their dormitory at the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok. As the truck they were loaded into headed into a forest, she plotted her escape, Saa explained at a Wednesday press conference in front of the U.S. Capitol.
“At the time I looked at my friend and [told] her ‘I’m going to jump out of the truck. I’d rather die and my parents have my body and bury it than to go with the Boko Haram. Are you going to jump with me?’ and she said yes, she would jump with me,” the 19-year-old said, who uses a pseudonym to help ensure her family's safety in Nigeria as well as her own.
Saa’s friend injured her leg during the jump and had to “crawl on her tummy” as the pair sought help that thankfully came the next day. Now she and several other victims who escaped to safety are pursuing their educations in the United States.
“When I came to America, I came to Washington, D.C., and [found] a story that American people say ‘give me liberty or give me death.’ When I heard that, I remember the time I decided to jump out of the truck that I’d rather die or live [free],” she added. “And here I am now, free and continuing with my studies. But my colleagues are still in the hands of the terrorists. I’m pleading everybody from all over the world and I’m pleading [with] the international community to do all our best to try and bring those girls back to school.”
Saa was remarkably composed in front of the group of reporters and clicking cameras, but at moments found it difficult to hide her melancholy and perhaps even a bit of survivor’s guilt. She and another young woman at the press conference are among the approximately 50 girls who managed to escape from the terrorist group. The whereabouts of the others is unknown. In addition, said Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Florida), an active participant in the #BringBackOurGirls campaign who organized the press conference, Boko Haram has displaced 1.5 million Nigerians, including 800,000 children, from their homes.
“Boko Haram is physically and psychologically abusing girls,” she said. “The girls are crying; the girls are hurting. Who is crying for the girls? Who is hurting with the girls, feeling their pain, their despair, their isolation? We have to do more.”
The Florida Democrat, who with other lawmakers traveled to Nigeria last year to meet with some of the abducted girls, their families and others impacted by Boko Haram's reign of terror, also noted that the group has joined forces with the Middle Eastern extremist group ISIS, a partnership that she likened to a “marriage from hell.”
“We must orchestrate a divorce now; this is dangerous for the world,” Wilson said.
Wilson said that she is working with the House Foreign Affairs Committee to propose several solutions, the most important of which she said, is to urge the government of Nigeria to use all of its resources to meet the humanitarian needs of citizens whose communities have been affected by Boko Haram.
The lawmaker also said that she has more faith in the West African nation’s new president, Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected earlier this month.
“I don’t think [Goodluck Johnathan] had the political will to find these girls. I think that the new president does, and we will go back to Nigeria to give him our support and let him know that we’re here,” she said.
After his election, Buhari warned the terrorists that he would come after them, the Associated Press reports.
“Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our will and commitment to rid this nation of terror, he said. “We shall spare no effort until we defeat terrorism.”
Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick.
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(Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)