The terrorist organization Boko Haram made news this week following their kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls. The kidnappings occurred weeks ago, but outcry from the families finally hit the international stage.
Boko Haram is an Islamist group opposed to Western society. They attack schools in particular as a sign of their contempt for the West. Their most recent attack involved kidnapping the schoolgirls and threatening to force the girls to marry or selling them into slavery for as little as $12.
This sparked international outrage once the media caught wind of it. There are numerous social media campaigns supporting the girls and their families. President Obama has pledged to give support to the Nigerian government, including sending in troops.
All of that is perfectly fine, and also perfectly ironic. Why? Primarily because the international concern is only for girls. Boko Haram does not just attack girls. The group has also attacked boys, most recently setting fire to a school after locking the boys in:
Islamic militants set fire to a locked dormitory at a school in northern Nigeria, then shot and slit the throats of students who tried to escape through windows during a pre-dawn attack Tuesday. At least 58 students were killed, including many who were burned alive.
They “slaughtered them like sheep” with machetes, and gunned down those who ran away, said one teacher, Adamu Garba.
Soldiers guarding a checkpoint near the coed government school were mysteriously withdrawn hours before it was targeted by the militants, said the spokesman for the governor of northeastern Yobe state.
Boko Haram has a history of targeting schools, and generally does not discriminate by sex. However, the media does, and apparently murdered boys does not raise people’s concern as much as kidnapped girls.
That is not to say that nothing should be done about the girls. We cannot allow a terrorist organization to kidnap anyone and threaten to sell them into slavery. As an international community we ought to move against them, and it should not have taken as long as it has for the Nigerian government to realize they could not manage the situation on their own.
That said, we cannot allow a terrorist organization to murder people either. We cannot give them a pass because they killed boys. Our indifference to male victimization likely emboldens Boko Haram. If they can murder boys in their sleep and receive no outcry, why can they not kidnap 200 girls?
Boko Haram is another example of how we as a community turn a blind eye to violence until it is done to the “wrong” group. The same situation happens in Afghanistan. We rail against any violence against women and girls in that country, but pay no mind to the countless boys kidnapped, raped, and sold by Afghan warlords funded by Coalition dollars.
We should be outraged by those acts of violence, but we are not. No one writes petitions, no creates hashtags, no one sends troops. As long as the victims are boys, no one cares. In that sense the girls are lucky. Had they been boys, we would still be talking about the White House Correspondence dinner.