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World should deliver to Nigerian girls’ kidnappers the dad’s message in film ‘Taken’ — and mean it

REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde
It does not appear that ransom was the motive for this horrific act. It is believed that the terrorist group Boko Haram took the girls to enslave them.

Bryan: “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”

Judge Kevin S. Burke

It was a memorable line by a fictional dad in the movie “Taken.” Language like that virtually always should be reserved for the cinema. But this is that rare time where the world community needs to join together and speak for the parents and daughters who have been abducted in Nigeria: “If you let the girls go, that will be the end of it. But if you do not, we will find you and we will kill you.”

On April 16, 234 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped. That is not a misprint: 234 daughters never came home to their parents. These children remain missing.

The parents of these girls — just like Bryan, the father portrayed by Liam Neeson in “Taken” — do not have any money for ransom. But it does not appear that ransom was the motive for this horrific act. It is believed that the terrorist group Boko Haram took the girls not to seek ransom but to enslave them.

Although there has been modest press coverage of the kidnapping, there has thus far not been the degree of outrage an act like this might engender. The missing Malaysian aircraft got people’s attention. Although CNN made the missing aircraft a staple of its programming, lots of others had plenty of coverage of it as well. Regrettably, if you were not careful, even those who regularly follow world events may have missed the story of these kidnapped children.

‘Shared out as wives’

On Wednesday the Washington Post reported, “We have heard from members of the forest community where they took the girls. They said there had been mass marriages and the girls are being shared out as wives among the Boko Haram militants.”

The Nigerian government has said the security forces are diligently searching for the girls, but its critics say it is not doing enough. When he learned of what had happened to his daughter, one girl’s father fainted, the Guardian reported, and has since been hospitalized. What an understandable reaction! Village elder Pogo Bitrus told Agence France Presse that locals had consulted with “various sources” in the nation’s forested northeast. “From the information we received yesterday from Cameroonian border towns our abducted girls were taken … into Chad and Cameroon,” he said, adding that each girl was sold as a bride to Islamist militants for 2,000 naira — $12.

Boko Haram has staged numerous brutal attacks in northern Nigeria in recent years. It is estimated 1,500 people have been killed in the violence and subsequent security crackdown this year alone. Although there are vocal critics of the Nigerian government’s response, the imperative now is not to assign blame. On Tuesday the Nigerian Senate urged the government and security agencies to seek the cooperation of other countries and the U.N. Security Council in the rescue effort. That call for the U.N. Security Council to respond should occur, but this is not a situation where a simple resolution is sufficient. The imperative is for the international community to be as blunt as the character Bryan in “Taken.”

President Barack Obama, who has two daughters, needs to call world leaders regardless if they are friend or foe and say, “We have differences that are not immediately going to disappear, but I’m a dad and you, too, have daughters and sisters. We are bound by one common value. We love our children and, unlike the parents of these girls from Nigeria, we have the power and might to make their pain go away. I ask you to join with us is sending a message: ‘If you let the girls go, that will be the end of it. But if you do not we will find you and kill you. We will save these children. And we will act with the passion one would expect if these girls were our children.”

Implore public leaders

The pain of losing your child does not fade. Just ask parents like Patty Wetterling, whose son Jacob was abducted at the age of 11 on Oct. 22, 1989. Minnesota is a state that was traumatized by the kidnapping of Jacob Wetterling, and we tried to be supportive. The magnitude of what has happened to the Nigerian schoolgirls is exponentially horrific. And it requires each of us to pause right now in what we are currently occupied with and implore the world leaders, for just this moment, to act in unison: Save these girls.

There is a power that social media has. If it were our daughter who was kidnapped we would Tweet, send emails to every contact we had, go on Facebook and implore everyone to help find our child. The parents of those children in Nigeria need that kind of commitment from us. 

Kevin S. Burke is a trial judge on the Hennepin County District Court and past president of the American Judges Association

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Jean Brandl on 07/12/2014 - 02:09 am.

    End it or be killed?

    Judge Burke raises an interesting question about a the validity of a contrast of extremes: pure mercy versus capital punishment. A modern parenting strategy involves warning a child that if she chooses a particular action there will be a specific punishment/consequence. If the action is taken, the punishment/consequence is swift and immediate because the child was warned. This works well in families and seems to create children who feel empowered to make their own decisions while also understanding that all actions have consequences.

    However, can this same strategy be appropriately meted out by a governmental system? Is it really acceptable to allow torturers to go free simply because they did the “right thing” after committing heinous atrocities? And is it really acceptable to kill the perpetrators if they choose not to return the girls? Does choice of action really allow such extremes of consequence? Put more simply, do the means justify the ends?

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