Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, Another Great Hike

There is a huge problem with the Cabrillo Lighthouse hike, and it is obvious from the very beginning. It is only a half mile, and it is downhill all the way.

What’s the problem, you might ask?

Well, if it is downhill all the way getting there, then coming back, it will be a half mile all . . . . What? You fill in the blank.

But it is another gorgeous day on the California sea coast, and it is a glorious day for a hike, even uphill.

00PointCabrilloLighthouse

00PtCabrilloLighthouse

There is a wonderful story about a man who came to take the lighthouse keeper position, but he wasn’t married and only married keepers were allowed to live in the lighthouse keeper’s house. So a local girl – maybe the daughter of the previous lighthouse keeper – volunteered to marry him, and they stayed married the rest of their lives.

00PtCabrilloLighthouseLight

00PtCabrilloGorge

I love using natural means to bioengineer against erosion loss:

00PtCabrilloBioengineeredErosionControl

And, on the way back, yes, uphill all the way, we come across some very calm deer, not worried in the slightest by the steady trickle of visitors on the nearby path:
00PtCabrilloDeer

April 30, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Exercise, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

The Hunting Ground: Campus Rape Victims Speak Out in New Movie

 

From AOL News via Sports Illustrated

When I lived in Kuwait and Qatar, I was appalled by the way rapes were treated, it was like this huge wave of abductions and violations, and nothing was done. As it turns out, things are changing a lot slower in my own country than I thought. This new film, The Hunting Ground, is by the same person who documented violence and rape in the US military, spurring then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, a truly decent man, to put the fear of God into the military leaders who were covering up the many rapes and blaming the victims. We have the same problem on college campuses.

 

There is only one cure. We have to raise our sons to respect women. We have to continue raising the bar for equality in our country until women have equal access to jobs, health treatment, legal proceedings, etc. Films like The Hunting Ground are painful, and at the same time, help us to face, and to overcome our societal short comings.

I love it that this film is “giving voice to those who have no voices;” that these courageous women speaking out have bravely named their rapists and described their circumstances. It can’t be comfortable, but it is their right. I am proud that they are not intimidated by fear of the ‘blame the victim’ mentality they have endured on their college campuses. When did colleges and universities begin placing money-making and winning teams before the well-being of their students?

New film gives chilling account of sexual assault on college campuses

 

BY JEFF BENEDICT

Sexual assaults on college campuses have reached alarming levels and the issue has drawn the attention of Congress and even President Obama himself. The latest research indicates that one in five college women will be sexually assaulted and as many as 90% of reported assaults are acquaintance rapes. It is believed that more than 100,000 college students will be sexually assaulted during the current school year. Nowhere is the deck stacked more against sexual assault victims than in college athletics. In just the last few years alone there have been cases at Florida StateMichiganOregonVanderbilt andMissouri.

All of this is a backdrop to a harrowing new film that premiers in theaters on Friday in New York City and Los Angeles. The Hunting Ground is a jarring exposé that shines a bright light on the epidemic number of sexual assaults taking place on college campuses each year.

The Hunting Ground features a group of survivors who faced harsh retaliation and harassment for reporting that they had been raped. The film focuses on institutional cover-ups and the brutal backlash against survivors at campuses such as HarvardYale,Dartmouth, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USC and the University ofCalifornia-Berkeley, among others. 

Some of the most vexing stories featured in the film involve women who were assaulted by athletes. While The Hunting Ground isn’t all about sports, the most dramatic moment in the film occurs two-thirds of the way through when the woman who accused former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston—who after a strong showing in last week’s Combine is projected by many to be the No. 1 pick in this spring’s NFL draft—appears and tells her story publicly for the first time. The woman, who is named in the film but SI.com has chosen to protect her identity, is shown on camera and gives her life-changing account of what she says happened the night in December 2012 she left a Tallahassee bar with Winston.

Photo: Getty Images

A high school honor student who planned to attend medical school, the woman is articulate and attractive. She looks like the girl next door, a person you would trust to babysit your children. It is uncomfortable to watch—yet impossible to look away—when she describes being beneath Winston on his bathroom floor, repeatedly telling him “no” before being physically overpowered. 

“We’re grateful it’s the first time people will get to hear [her] story,” said The Hunting Ground director Kirby Dick. “It’s her first-hand testimony. Up to this point it hasn’t been in a public space.”

The woman’s parents also appear in the film. Her father talks about driving to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital with his wife to be with their daughter hours after the incident.

There is nothing easy about retelling these stories for the world to see. But the attorney for the woman who says she was raped by Winston, John Clune, said his client decided to break her silence in the film because she felt it was the right venue to tell her story.

“The film was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Clune said. “The work by these filmmakers is nothing less than groundbreaking. It took tremendous courage, but our client and all of the incredibly brave women in the film have advanced the cause of rape survivors everywhere.” 

The Hunting Ground also examines a sexual assault accusation against a Notre Damefootball player in 2010. Tom Seeberg, whose daughter committed suicide after she says she was sexually assaulted by a Fighting Irish starter, tells a heartbreaking account of school officials thwarting the investigation into his daughter’s complaint. A former Notre Dame police officer reveals that he and his colleagues were not allowed to approach or question an athlete on athletic properties. 

The film also mentions rape cases involving football players at Missouri and Vanderbilt, as well as basketball players at Oregon.

The testimonials of rape survivors are wrapped between raw footage that is both gut-wrenching and disturbing. A small mob of unruly fraternity pledges at Yale are captured on film outside a freshman dorm for women, chanting: “No means yes. Yes means anal.” All the while a guy with a bullhorn is shouting: “Louder.” 

In another scene we see drunken frat boys spilling out of a house where there is a sign out front that says: “THANKS FOR YOUR DAUGHTERS.” It’s enough to outrage any parent with a daughter heading off to college. 

The film is directed by Dick and produced by Amy Ziering, the team behind the Oscar-nominated film The Invisible War, which revealed systemic sexual assaults and cover-ups within the U.S. military. That movie prompted Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to announce significant policy changes and inspired the passage of the Military Justice Improvement Act. 

Dick and Ziering started looking into the situation on college campuses shortly after the release of The Invisible War. “We were astonished that the problem was as serious in higher education as it was in the military,” Dick said. 

Full disclosure: I appear in The Hunting Ground as an expert. Two of the cases in the film—Lizzy Seeberg’s alleged assault at Notre Dame and running back Derrick Washington’s sexual assault of a student at the University of Missouri—are featured in my book The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football, which I wrote with 60 Minutes correspondent Armen Keteyian. 

Some of my research is also featured in the film, including the statistic that student-athletes are responsible for 19% of the reported sexual assaults on campus, despite the fact that they comprise just 3.3% of the male student population. Those figures arose from a first-of-its-kind study I conducted with researchers at the University of Massachusetts in the mid-90s when we were granted access to judicial affairs records and police reports at colleges across the country. 

Photo: Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Over the past 20 years I have researched hundreds of cases of sexual assault involving athletes. During that time I’ve interviewed countless sexual assault victims. The thing I found most telling was what prosecutor Willie Meggs did not say in the film. Meggs was asked if he thought a rape took place in Winston’s apartment. It was a perfect opportunity for the man who chose not to prosecute Winston to say no.  Instead, he said something “bad” happened in that apartment that night. He just didn’t have sufficient evidence to prove it. 

That’s not unusual. That’s typical. Only about 20% of rapes reported to the police in the U.S. are prosecuted. Yet at least 92% of reported sexual assault claims are found to be true. The problem is that date rape cases are very difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, especially when alcohol is involved and the incident occurs in the perpetrator’s apartment, dorm or hotel room. The doubts raised by those factors are amplified when the accused is a star athlete.

The greatest achievement of The Hunting Ground is that it empowers rape victims to team up with each other and come forward. It’s fair to say that for the first time in many years, women like Jameis Winston’s alleged victim have powerful allies. 

By the time the NFL draft takes place in May, the film will be in theaters around the country, the name of Winston’s accuser will be everywhere and more details about the night in question will likely come out. All of this brings to mind the legal maxim caveat emptor, which essentially is a warning that means let the buyer beware. 

Jason Licht, the general manager for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ultimately has to decide whether to use the first pick on Winston. He’s on record saying: “This is the most important pick, potentially, in the history of the franchise.” 

Memo to Licht: Watch The Hunting Ground.

The ramifications in this instance are equally big for the NFL, whose image took a beating over the last year after Ray Rice was caught on tape knocking out his then-fiancé in an elevator. The controversy erupted after Commissioner Roger Goodell imposed a two-game suspension without bothering to obtain and watch the video.

Memo to the Commissioner: Watch The Hunting Ground. 

No matter what happens with Winston, the film succeeds in its main goal: to shine a light on sexual assault on college campuses. It’s an important issue that isn’t going away, and if something drastic isn’t done immediately, it will only get worse.

Jeff Benedict is a lawyer and has written five books on athletes and violence against women, including Public Heroes, Private Felons: Athletes and Violence Against Women, and Out of Bounds: Inside the NBA’s Culture of Rape, Violence and Crime.

 

February 26, 2015 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Crime, Cultural, Health Issues, Interconnected, Law and Order, Leadership, Lies, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Rants, Relationships, Values | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“U.S. Women Drive Because They Don’t Care if They are Raped”

From AOL News/Huffpost/TheWorldPost:

The good news is that Saudi women know better. They don’t buy this line any more than we do. They visit America, they go to school in America. And oh yes, they DRIVE in America. The second part of the good news is that the younger generation buys this line a whole lot less than our parent’s generation, and change is coming. It’s coming faster than this historian thinks.

Saudi Historian Says U.S. Women Drive Because They Don’t Care If They’re Raped

Posted: 02/10/2015 2:03 am EST Updated: 02/10/2015 8:59 am EST
Screen shot 2015-02-15 at 2.10.06 PM

A Saudi Arabian historian trying to justify the nation’s ban on female drivers sayswomen who drive in other countries such as the United States don’t care if they’re raped and that sexual violence “is no big deal to them.”

Saleh al-Saadoon claimed in a recent TV interview that women can be raped when a car breaks down, but unlike other countries, Saudi Arabia protects its women from that risk by not allowing them to drive in the first place, according to a translation posted online by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

“They don’t care if they are raped on the roadside, but we do,” al-Saadoon said on Saudi Rotana Khalijiyya TV.

“Hold on. Who told you they don’t care about getting raped on the roadside?” asked the host, a woman who is not named in the transcript.

“It’s no big deal for them beyond the damage to their morale,” al-Saadoon replied. “In our case, however, the problem is of a social and religious nature.”

Two other guests on the show — a man and a woman — appeared to be in shock over his comments. Al-Saadoon said they were out of touch.

“They should listen to me and get used to what society thinks,” al-Saadoon said.

Since the rape argument didn’t seem to be convincing anyone, al-Saadoon tried another approach, claiming that women are treated “like queens” in Saudi Arabia because they are driven around by the men of the family and male chauffeurs. That led the host to ask if he wasn’t afraid that women might be raped by their chauffeurs.

Al-Saadoon agreed.

“There is a solution, but the government officials and the clerics refuse to hear of it,” he said. “The solution is to bring in female foreign chauffeurs to drive our wives.”

That caused the female host to laugh and cover her face with her palm.

“Female foreign chauffeurs?” she said. “Seriously?”

Saudi women face serious penalties if they are caught driving, including lashing. Two women who defied the ban on driving last year, Loujain al-Hathloul and Maysa al-Amoudi, are being tried in a court that handles terror cases.

 

February 15, 2015 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Communication, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Generational, Interconnected, Leadership, Lies, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Quality of Life Issues, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues | , , , | 4 Comments

Wanted: Qatari Lady

This morning I found two comments on an old post about high temperatures in Qatar (now deleted). I was offended, but now I offer up this commenter to my Qatari friends. He has included his phone number. I suggest you call him and correct his mistaken ideas about Qatari women.

Screen shot 2015-01-15 at 10.04.12 AM

Note: My site is not a hooking-up site.

January 15, 2015 Posted by | Communication, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Mating Behavior, Qatar, Social Issues, Women's Issues | | 3 Comments

Where is Lafia, Nigeria?

Today the church prays for Lafia, Nigeria, which is near Abuja, in the part of Nigeria where Boko Haram runs rampant, and where over 250 girls were kidnapped from their school in 2014. Some few escaped, most were married off to poor young Boko Haram soldiers into hardship and near-slavery. Boko Haram does not believe in educating women. The Nigerian government at one point announced that Boko Haram had agreed to return the girls, but nothing happened. The Nigerian military and police do nothing to get them back.

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January 2, 2015 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Faith, Family Issues, Geography / Maps, Interconnected, Law and Order, Leadership, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Nigeria, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , | 2 Comments

Good2Go for Consensual Sex

Go figure. In spite of admonitions to the contrary, young people have sex. Problems arise when someone isn’t old enough to consent, isn’t coherent enough to have sex or is forced to have sex or participate in a sex act they don’t consent to.

 

I love this idea. It takes a little of the “he says – she says” out of the classic dilemma of who did what to whom and who should be held accountable? Was it consensual? Was it rape? Were both parties in a sober enough state to make that decision?

This is from SLATE Online magazine

 

Consensual Sex: There’s an App for That

Good2Go

Courtesy of Good2Go

Last June, Reason’s Robby Soave called for an iPhone app that would clear up pesky he-said, she-said rape cases by recording “mutual consent” to engage in sexual activity before two people do the deed: “Maybe they would have to input a password and then touch phones, or something?” he proposed. Last week, his prayers were answered: The Good2Gosexual consent app isn’t as touch-and-go as the app of Soave’s dreams, but it does encourage sex partners to assess their mutual interest in sex and record their intoxication levels before getting busy.

Here’s how it works: After deciding that you would like to have sex with someone, launch the Good2Go app (free on iTunes and Google Play), hand the phone off to your potential partner, and allow him or her to navigate the process to determine if he or she is ready and willing. “Are We Good2Go?” the first screen asks, prompting the partner to answer “No, Thanks,” “Yes, but … we need to talk,” or “I’m Good2Go.” If the partner chooses door No. 1, a black screen pops up that reads “Remember! No means No! Only Yes means Yes, BUT can be changed to NO at anytime!” If he or she opts instead to have a conversation before deciding—imagine, verbally communicating with someone with whom you may imminently engage in sexual intercourse—the app pauses to allow both parties to discuss.

If the partner—let’s assume for the purposes of this blog post, partner is a she—indicates that she is “Good2Go,” she’s sent to a second screen that asks if she is “Sober,” “Mildly Intoxicated,” “Intoxicated but Good2Go,” or “Pretty Wasted.” If she chooses “Pretty Wasted,” the app informs her that she “cannot consent” and she’s instructed to return the phone back to its owner (and presumably, not have sex under any circumstances, young lady). All other choices lead to a third screen, which asks the partner if she is an existing Good2Go user or a new one. If she’s a new user, she’s prompted to enter her phone number and a password, confirm that she is 18 years old, and press submit. (Minors are out of luck—the app is only for consentingadults.) Then, she’ll fill out a fourth prompt, which asks her to input a six-digit code that’s just been texted to her own cellphone to verify her identity with that app. (Previous users can just type in their phone number—which serves as their Good2Go username—and password.) Once that level is complete, she returns the phone to its owner, who can view a message explaining the terms of the partner’s consent. (For example, the “Partner is intoxicated but is Good2Go.”) Then, the instigator presses a button marked “Ok,” which reminds him again that yes can be changed to “NO at anytime!”

Then you get to have sex.

Easy, right? When I tried this process out with a partner, it took us four minutes to navigate through all the screens, mostly because he kept asking, “Why are we using an app for this?” and “Why do I have to give them my phone number?” (More on that later.) I was confused, too: As the instigator, I wasn’t asked to confirm that I wanted to have sex or to state my own intoxication level for my partner’s consideration. (A promotional video modeling the process begins by announcing how “simple” it is, then snaps out instructions for three minutes, but questions remain.) Perhaps the process is deliberately time-consuming: The app provides the “opportunity for two people to pause and reflect on what they really want to do, rather than entering an encounter that might lead to something one or both will later regret,” the app’s FAQ reads. Or maybe I’m just old: At 29, I find it much easier to just talk about sex than to use an app for that.

Lee Ann Allman, a creator of the app, says she was inspired to make it after talking with her college-aged kids about sexual assault on campuses across the country. They “are very aware of what’s happening, and they’re worried about it, but they’re confused about what to do. They don’t know how they should be approaching somebody they’re interested in,” she told me. Meanwhile, “kids are so used to having technology that helps them with issues in their lives” that Allman believes the app will help facilitate necessary conversations, encourage them to consider their level of intoxication, and remind young people that consent to sex should be affirmatively given and can be revoked at any time.

“Good2Go” is obviously a euphemism for sexual activity, but it’s not clear what that means exactly—is it making out, oral sex, vaginal intercourse, or anal sex, and with protection or not? (I guess you could always pause, grab phones, and start the process over to consent to another specific sexual activity—but at some point, you’d actually have to verbally explain what you’re agreeing to be Good2Go4.) The message that people need to consent to sex, and that they can withdraw consent, and they probably shouldn’t be totally wasted while they do it is one that college campuses are already administering to their students upon orientation. It may not always be getting though, but it’s not clear how the app (which is now being promoted through campus ambassadors) advances the cause.

In fact, Good2Go could contribute a dangerous new element to those he-said she-said rape cases. What Good2Go doesn’t tell users is that it keeps a private record of every “I’m Good2Go” agreement logged in its system, tied to both users’ personal phone numbers and Good2Go accounts. (Records of interactions where users say “No” or just want to talk are not logged in this way.) Allman says that regular users aren’t permitted access to those records, but a government official with a subpoena could. “It wouldn’t be released except under legal circumstances,” Allman told me. “But it does create a data point that there was an occasion where one party asked the other for affirmative consent, that could be useful in the future … there are cases, of course, as we know, where the accused is an innocent party, so in that case, it could be beneficial to him.”

That record may help the falsely accused, but it’s unlikely to aid a real victim. Good2Go may remind its users that consent can be revoked at any time, but there are still judges and juries that will take evidence that a person said “yes” to sex at one point, and conclude that they were asking for whatever happened later that night (or the next). Compared to that scenario, talking about sex doesn’t seem so scary.

Amanda Hess is a Slate staff writer.

 

October 3, 2014 Posted by | Character, Civility, Communication, Crime, Cultural, Family Issues, Health Issues, Law and Order, Lies, Mating Behavior, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 2 Comments

If Disney Princes Were Real . . .

I just laughed myself silly! People are so funny and so creative, and you can see the dancers in the Aladin segment are puffing they worked so hard. This is a VERY witty group of people, and the Princes come off so creepy and pathetic!

September 8, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Humor, Mating Behavior | | Leave a comment

Pregnant Pakistani Woman Stoned by Family for Marrying for Love

From AOL Breaking News:

Pregnant Pakistani woman stoned to death by family

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) – A pregnant woman was stoned to death Tuesday by her own family outside a courthouse in the Pakistani city of Lahore for marrying the man she loved.

The woman was killed while on her way to court to contest an abduction case her family had filed against her husband. Her father was promptly arrested on murder charges, police investigator Rana Mujahid said, adding that police were working to apprehend all those who participated in this “heinous crime.”

Arranged marriages are the norm among conservative Pakistanis, and hundreds of women are murdered every year in so-called honor killings carried out by husbands or relatives as a punishment for alleged adultery or other illicit sexual behavior.

Stonings in public settings, however, are extremely rare. Tuesday’s attack took place in front of a crowd of onlookers in broad daylight. The courthouse is located on a main downtown thoroughfare.

A police officer, Naseem Butt, identified the slain woman as Farzana Parveen, 25, and said she had married Mohammad Iqbal, 45, against her family’s wishes after being engaged to him for years.

Her father, Mohammad Azeem, had filed an abduction case against Iqbal, which the couple was contesting, said her lawyer, Mustafa Kharal. He said she was three months pregnant.

Nearly 20 members of Parveen’s extended family, including her father and brothers, had waited outside the building that houses the high court of Lahore. As the couple walked up to the main gate, the relatives fired shots in the air and tried to snatch her from Iqbal, her lawyer said.

When she resisted, her father, brothers and other relatives started beating her, eventually pelting her with bricks from a nearby construction site, according to Mujahid and Iqbal, the slain woman’s husband.

Iqbal said he started seeing Parveen after the death of his first wife, with whom he had five children.

“We were in love,” he told The Associated Press. He alleged that the woman’s family wanted to fleece money from him before marrying her off.

“I simply took her to court and registered a marriage,” infuriating the family, he said.

Parveen’s father surrendered after the attack and called his daughter’s murder an “honor killing,” Butt said.

“I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it,” Mujahid, the police investigator, quoted the father as saying.

Mujahid said the woman’s body was handed over to her husband for burial.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a private group, said in a report last month that some 869 women were murdered in honor killings in 2013.

But even Pakistanis who have tracked violence against women expressed shock at the brutal and public nature of Tuesday’s slaying.

“I have not heard of any such case in which a woman was stoned to death, and the most shameful and worrying thing is that this woman was killed outside a courthouse,” said Zia Awan, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist.

He said Pakistanis who commit violence against women are often acquitted or handed light sentences because of poor police work and faulty prosecutions.

“Either the family does not pursue such cases or police don’t properly investigate. As a result, the courts either award light sentences to the attackers, or they are acquitted,” he said.

 

May 27, 2014 Posted by | Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Generational, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Pakistan | , | 2 Comments

Umm Al Tawaman

My sweet niece, Little Diamond (Professor Little Diamond 🙂 ) has given birth to two of the most perfectly beautiful little babies, ever. These are the quilts I made for them, and lastly is one of the sweet babies on his quilt. Congratulations, Umm Al Tawaman, God is good and full of mercy and compassion.

00Finn This one is called Interconnected.

00Annie This one is called Desert Rose.

Finn&BabyQuilt
Isn’t that a beautiful little baby? 🙂

May 15, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Circle of Life and Death, Family Issues, Generational, Interconnected, Mating Behavior, Parenting | 2 Comments

Nigeria’s Stolen Girls

This is what I love about New Yorker magazine: they print stories no one prints, they follow stories that need following. They lead, and they do their job, alerting us to issues that matter. My heart goes out to the families, Christian and Muslim, of these girls who were abducted because they were being educated. Boko Haram believes educating women goes against Islam. Someone should read them a Quran.

 

APRIL 30, 2014

NIGERIA’S STOLEN GIRLS

AP218361876356-580.jpg“I thought it was the end of my life,” Deborah Sanya told me by phone on Monday from Chibok, a tiny town of farmers in northeastern Nigeria. “There were many, many of them.” Boko Haram, an Islamist terrorist group, kidnapped Sanya and at least two hundred of her classmates from a girls’ secondary school in Chibok more than two weeks ago. Sanya, along with two friends, escaped. So did forty others. The rest have vanished, and their families have not heard any word of them since.

Sanya is eighteen years old and was taking her final exams before graduation. Many of the schools in towns around Chibok, in the state of Borno, had been shuttered. Boko Haram attacks at other schools—like a recent massacre of fifty-nine schoolboys in neighboring Yobe state—had prompted the mass closure. But local education officials decided to briefly reopen the Chibok school for exams. On the night of the abduction, militants showed up at the boarding school dressed in Nigerian military uniforms. They told the girls that they were there to take them to safety. “They said, ‘Don’t worry. Nothing will happen to you,’ ” Sanya told me. The men took food and other supplies from the school and then set the building on fire. They herded the girls into trucks and onto motorcycles. At first, the girls, while alarmed and nervous, believed that they were in safe hands. When the men started shooting their guns into the air and shouting “Allahu Akbar,” Sanya told me, she realized that the men were not who they said they were. She started begging God for help; she watched several girls jump out of the truck that they were in.

It was noon when her group reached the terrorists’ camp. She had been taken not far from Chibok, a couple of remote villages away in the bush. The militants forced her classmates to cook; Sanya couldn’t eat. Two hours later, she pulled two friends close and told them that they should run. One of them hesitated, and said that they should wait to escape at night. Sanya insisted, and they fled behind some trees. The guards spotted them and called out for them to return, but the girls kept running. They reached a village late at night, slept at a friendly stranger’s home, and, the next day, called their families.

Sanya could not tell me more after that. She is not well. Her cousins and her close friends are still missing, and she is trying to understand how she is alive and back home. All she can do now, she said, is pray and fast, then pray and fast again.

The day after the abduction, the Nigerian military claimed that it had rescued nearly all of the girls. A day later, the military retracted its claim; it had not actually rescued any of the girls. And the number that the government said was missing, just over a hundred, was less than half the number that parents and school officials counted: according to their tally, two hundred and thirty-four girls were taken.

In the wake of the military’s failure, parents banded together and raised money to send several of their number into the forest to search for the girls. The group came across villagers who persuaded the parents to turn back. They told the parents that they had seen the girls nearby, but the insurgents were too well armed. Many of the parents had just bows and arrows.

 

***

The circumstances of the kidnapping, and the military’s deception, especially, have exposed a deeply troubling aspect of Nigeria’s leadership: when it comes to Boko Haram, the government cannot be trusted. Children have been killed, along with their families, in numerous Boko Haram bombings and massacres over the past five years. (More than fifteen hundred people have been killed so far this year.) State schools and remote villages in the north have borne the brunt of Boko Haram’s violence this year. The group is believed to be at least partly waging a campaign against secular values. The kidnapped girls were both Christian and Muslim; their only offense, it seems, was attending school.

Last June, I visited Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and the birthplace of Boko Haram, to report on the insurgency and the Nigerian government’s counteroffensive, a security operation that placed three northeastern states, including Borno and Yobe, under a state of emergency as troops launched attacks on terrorist hideouts and camps. The military cut phone lines and Internet access, and, while residents were glad for the intervention, there was a sense of living in the dark. Gunshots, a bomb blast: was it Boko Haram or a military attack? Were the hundreds of men disappeared by the military actually terrorists—even the young boys? And was the government, as it claimed, really winning the war?

The military has restored phone lines in Borno. But the sole airline that flew to Maiduguri cancelled the route at the end of last year. The road to Chibok is so hazardous that Borno’s governor visited the town with a heavy military escort. Much of the northeast is now physically isolated. What is happening there that we cannot see?

Nigerians in the rest of the country had, until recently, been able to ignore the deaths. The general mood has been one of weary apathy—from a government waging a heavy-handed crackdown on northerners to civilians far removed from the chaos. That mood may finally change.

 

 

***

Sanya’s father, a primary-school teacher named Ishaya Sanya, is struggling with conflicting emotions: gratitude that his daughter has returned to him; guilt that the daughters of his siblings, friends, and neighbors are still somewhere in the bush; and an angry frustration that there seemed to be no effort to rescue the girls.

“We don’t know where they are up until now, and we have not heard anything from the government,” he told me. “Every house in Chibok has been affected by the kidnapping.” The only information that the families had been able to gather about the kidnapped girls, he went on, was from the girls who had escaped.

He remembers the exact time that Deborah appeared in front of him after her escape—4:30P.M.—and how he felt: “very happy.” But his despair soon returned. “Our area has been affected very seriously,” he told me. Parents had fallen physically ill, and some were “going mad.”

The military’s current plans are unclear; the Chibok parents hope that it is acting swiftly and cautiously. There is worry, too, that a rescue operation could result in the deaths of many of the girls; this happened during a previous attempted rescue, of two Western engineers kidnapped by Boko Haram. Last week, a military spokesman, Brigadier-General Chris Olukolade, said only that the search for the girls had “intensified.”

In the meantime, as in so many other ways in Nigeria, each community has to fend for itself. For a while after the abduction, girls trickled back into town—some rolled off trucks, some snuck away while fetching water. That trickle has stopped. “Nobody rescued them,” a government official in Chibok said of the girls who made it back. “I want you to stress this point. Nobody rescued them. They escaped on their accord. This is painful.”

A pastor in Chibok whose daughter is missing told me that he set out with friends on the morning after the abduction to find the girls. “I was forced to come home empty-handed,” he told me by phone. “I just don’t know what the federal government is doing about it. And there is no security here that will defend us. You have to do what you can do to escape for your life.”

I asked the pastor about rumors that Boko Haram has taken the girls outside of Nigeria’s borders, into Cameroon and Chad, and forcibly married them. He paused, and then said, “How will I be happy? How will I be happy?”

Four students walk in Chibok following their escape from Boko Haram. Photograph by Haruna Umar/AP.

 

May 1, 2014 Posted by | Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Faith, Interconnected, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Nigeria, Values, Women's Issues | , , , | Leave a comment