Bring Back Our Girls

Jewish teens speak out against the kidnappings in Nigeria.

Authors Eliana Worenklein (left) and Hannah Cohen (right) promote social media activism. 

 

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”
— Martin Niemöller

In the past few weeks, Jews have commemorated the Holocaust, mourned the deaths of Israeli soldiers and celebrated the freedoms and opportunities we have in our State of Israel. After this time of reflection on our own history and plight, it is important to recognize significant problems happening in the world today.

On April 14 more than 200 teenage girls were kidnapped from their school in Nigeria by the terrorist organization Boko Haram, whose name translates into “Western education is sin.” Boko Haram opposes educating women and intends to sell the teens into slavery. “I abducted your girls… I will sell them in the market,” as Allah commands, announced the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau. This tragedy occurred more than one month ago and Americans are just now coming to grips with the full magnitude of this crisis. Until recently, many of us were completely unaware of the situation.

The nightmare continues for these teenagers and their families. Just last week, the captors released a video showing 77 of the girls, allegedly forced to convert to Islam and dressed in Muslim garb. Boko Haram is demanding that the Nigerian government release its imprisoned members in exchange for the kidnapped girls.

As Jews, we know what it is like to have the world sit idly by as we are oppressed. While many people stood up for the Jews during the Holocaust, there were also many who did not. Jews who fled German-occupied countries were denied admission into refugee countries, their backs turned in our time of need. We can not do the same to these Nigerian girls. We have to join the effort to stand up for them.

Similar to these Nigerian teens, we, too, are high school girls pursuing an education. We are blessed to live in a society where learning is respected, and it is hard to imagine living in any place where girls are denied an education. Yet, sadly, this is a reality. In countries such as Nigeria and Pakistan, a woman puts her life in danger when she attends school.

Malala Yousafazai is a Pakistani girl who took this risk. She sought an education for herself and advocated for the education of others. The result? The Taliban issued a death threat and followers shot her in the head. Malala survived and moved to the United Kingdom, where she recovered from her injuries and continues to advocate for women’s rights and education. Malala was a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize and wrote an inspiring autobiography, “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.” Malala is our age, 16 years old, and she has shown bravery that we are inspired to emulate.

Speaking out about the crisis in Nigeria, Malala said, “If we remain silent then this will spread.” We need to take Malala’s words to heart and fight for these kidnapped girls. 

We are asking you to join Malala and us and spread the word on Facebook: www.facebook.com/bringbackourgirls and on Twitter: #bringbackourgirls.

We implore you to contact your local representatives and urge them to send aid to rescue these Nigerian students. Please sign the petitions already circulating to encourage the American and international communities to contribute resources and take action:  White House petition and Change.org petition.  

We’re only teenage American Jews, but we have learned that sitting back idly when a part of the world is being subjected to inhumane treatment by a crazed strongman is simply not an option. Please help us bring back our girls.

author's bio: 
Hannah Cohen is a sophomore and Eliana Worenklein a junior at Westchester Hebrew High School in Hartsdale, N.Y.