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UC Berkeley students rally in support of kidnapped Nigerian girls

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MAY 14, 2014

UC Berkeley students rallied outside Sproul Hall on Wednesday at noon to urge the release of kidnapped Nigerian girls, who were allegedly abducted a month ago from their school.

The incident has drawn international attention — most recently with the release of a video Monday purporting to show the children in the custody of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram. UC Berkeley’s Nigerian Student Association led the rally of about 25 supporters, emphasizing the importance of access to education for women.

“We all have lots of cousins and nieces in Nigeria, so it’s a really scary and terrible situation,” said Erewa Uku, a UC Berkeley student and member of the association. “I don’t know what I would do if my cousin or niece was a part of that group that has been kidnapped.”

The Boko Haram allegedly abducted the children from their boarding school in northeastern Nigeria for the purpose of exchanging the girls for imprisoned militants.

Solomon Nwoche — a UC Berkeley senior and 2013-14 ASUC senator — echoed international outrage, saying that the Boko Haram kidnapped the girls out of a belief that they should marry and have children rather than study in school.

“They were just kidnapped because people do not want them to progress in their education,” Nwoche said.

The protesters said their goal was to urge the Nigerian government to prioritize the safe return of the school girls. Students also demanded that Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan strengthen the country’s military, which student protesters said was not deployed in time to stop the militants.

To bring awareness to the kidnappings, activists around the world have turned to social media. Millions of tweets have included the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, with numerous celebrities and politicians joining the campaign.

Martha Saavedra, associate director for the campus’s Center for African American studies, emphasized the need for action but also commended efforts of the social media campaign.

“What exactly anyone could do in terms of action, honestly, is a big complicated issue,” Saavedra said. “We certainly know that sending in a military to do something could have unintended consequences.”

Beyond the kidnappings, student protesters also called on Jonathan to address rising poverty in Nigeria, which they said contributed to the violence and rise of the Boko Haram.

For UC Berkeley freshman Iyioluwa Ajayi, who spent 14 years of her life in Nigeria, the events in her home country resonated with her and her educational pursuits.

“I came to Berkeley to learn, and for someone to take that right away from me, just because I am a girl, would mean I can’t fulfill my dreams,” Ajayi said. “If they can’t get an education, then someone else is crushing their dreams and also preventing them from reaching their goals.”

Contact Chris Tril at 

LAST UPDATED

MAY 14, 2014


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