The new HBO documentary Stolen Daughters: Kidnapped by Boko Haram, sheds a light on the mass kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls by the jihadist group that sparked worldwide outrage and ignited the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag.
Filmmakers for the documentary, which premiered October 22, spoke with the some of the 276 Chibok school girls who were taken by Boko Haram into the Sambisa Forest in 2015.
The Nigerian government brokered a deal and some 82 girls were released. Other girls escaped, others died. Some remain with Boko Haram and have been radicalized and reportedly subjected to rape and horrific conditions.
“People were shocked and outraged by the kidnapping at the time,” writer and producer Karen Edwards told ELLE.com, “but when they disappeared and the Nigerian Government was offering little or no new information, the news story moved on. It was my experience that when you mention the Chibok Girls and the BringBackOurGirl campaign, people were quick to remember. They were instantly curious about what had happened to them.”
Producer Sasha Achilli told ELLE.com that it was still difficult for many of the girls to discuss what they had experienced. They deflected by recalling the stories in third person as if it did not apply to them.
“In terms of personally hearing the stories of these girls, it is deeply sad,” she said.
“You also feel so powerless at times to be able to make a difference…they are victims of circumstance, and the only thing that is different between me and them, as a woman, is purely the fact that I was born in the West.”
Although the film shows the rescued girls doing normal things like sitting in classrooms, at an amusement park, and reuniting with their families, what they endured was horrifying.
On girl, 16-year-old Zahra, one of the Forgotten Girls, recalled the time she was forced to help Boko Haram carry out the kidnapping of other girls.
She said a 14-year-old girl was taken and her parents were killed in the process. She was locked into a room where at least 10 men raped her repeatedly. “She suffered a great deal of pain,” Zahra recalls. “I will never forget her all my life.”
Zahra escaped the terror with two other girls, but she was the only one of the group to survive alive.