May 08, 2014

STOP REPOSTING THE GIRLS NAMES FROM #BRINGBACKOURGIRLS

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[image description: First Lady Michelle Obama looking solemly at the camera and holding up a sign that reads #BringBackOurGirls]

I’ve seen a list circulating recently with the names of almost 200 of the Chibok 234, and after much thought and reflection I am now horrified. Many members and supporters of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign have totally failed most of the girls and their families by publicizing and spreading this list. Moreover, as a Nigerian I can tell you that the fact that we are broadcasting the (potential) rapes of these children to their communities and across the globe is simply inviting future pain, harassment and violence against them and their families when they do return home. It is also likely to bring incredible shame on them and their families and cause tremendous long term damage to their lives after the fact, as this list was published without their consent, and potentially even without the clear consent of their parents for all we know.

So, please, as a Nigerian I ask that you STOP REPOSTING THE NAMES LIST.

Activist, Semhar put it brilliantly and succinctly here:

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[image description: tweet from Semhar @Semhar, “PLEASE STOP POSTING THE NAMES. MOST ARE MINORS. THEY & THEIR FAMILIES NEED PROTECTION & SAFETY FROM FUTURE TARGETING.”]

Posting the full names of likely victims of rape and sexual assault, particularly CHILDREN without their parents’ full consent (we have no idea if the parents gave consent for this or in what form) would NOT be acceptable in the West, but now suddenly because these children are African this is okay and “anything goes”? Semhar’s tweets were a wakeup call for me as well, as I had not realized the long term effects and potential collateral damage from having the girls’ names out there. After reading what she had to say, though, I meditated on her tweets for a few hours and contextualized the situation culturally as well. At that point, light bulbs started firing off in my head. I began to see clearly just how bad this list was for the girls and their families, and how nefarious it was as well, with multiple major Western and Nigerian publications plastering the victims’ names for the collective ogling of tens of millions of people across the world.

These are children. They may have been sexually assaulted and raped. But rather than respecting their privacy, we are posting scores of their names online? How little respect do we have for them and their families? This is terrible, and potentially incredible destructive. Calling it inappropriate would be an understatement, and the publications that are refusing to take these lists down should be ashamed of themselves.

I’m so grateful for Semhar’s tweets for helping me realize all of this. I would like to reiterate this message again, though, to make it clear:

Please, please, please as a Nigerian I ask that you STOP reblogging and reposting the names of the Chibok 234 and remove them from your pages if you haven’t already. The fact that a Nigerian organization posted the list does NOT make it better. Nigerian organizations, like their Western counterparts, fuck up all of the time good intentions be damned. Posting a laundry list of names of potential victims of rape and sexual assault, especially of minors is not acceptable under ANY circumstances.

As Semhar continues in her tweets:

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[image description: tweet from Shemar @Shemar, “: Using full names is dangerous. Release 1st names only. Or last names initials. Use fictional names to PROTECT identity.”]

There are so many alternatives to using full names. And the best thing that we can do at this juncture is use abbreviations or fictional names to protect their identities. In the future, maybe some of the girls will want to come forward tell their stories and share their identities as well, but that should be their decision to make with the clear and full consent of their families as well.

So again, PLEASE stop reposting the names list. We’ve already discussed how this tragedy is a criminal act by Nigeria’s leaders, who must be called to account for their failures, and how suddenly everyone in the West (of all races) is suddenly purporting to be an expert on Nigeria and all things Nigerian. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie also recently wrote a brilliant piece calling President Goodluck Jonathan to task, which was so cutting and necessary in this time of national mourning and grief. This is a tragedy and we must proceed with sensitivity, caution and tremendous respect toward the victims and their families especially.

Lastly, please stop signing that God-awful Change.org petition that has been making the rounds. The US and other Western powers now appear to be taking measured steps to provide logistical and intelligence support to the Nigerian military. I have no problem with that and welcome it even, but the wording of that petition leaves the door open to full US military intervention. We were colonized and brutalized for decades by the British, so the mere thought of a Western military presence on Nigerian soil is terrifying to me and many other Nigerians to say the least. Moreover, on top of everything it would just destabilize the situation further and play directly into Boko Haram’s hands. Again, this so clearly shows that malign intent is not a requisite for malign effect. So please don’t post the girls’ names and don’t sign this petition.

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