“Everywhere in the world, they hurt little girls.” – Cersei
During last night’s episode of “Game of Thrones," the former Queen Regent, the self-proclaimed “daughter of the most powerful man alive,” fretted over the safety of her own daughter even as her second son was crowned way before his time. Brienne realized the ineptitude of the squire with whom she’d been saddled. Sansa marched through the Bloody Gates with a whoremonger, murderer, and the most devious powerbroker in King’s Landing. Arya was backhanded across the mouth by a man four times her size in the name of her education. Meera was nearly raped in front of her brother, his hands tied uselessly behind him. And the women of Craster’s Keep, once freed from the abusive grip of a band of mutineers, opted to go it alone rather than commend themselves to the hands of their liberators.
“The First of His Name” was a purposeful, sinewy, and violent exploration of women living in a far off, fantastical land and their tenuous relationship with those who purport to protect them. Compared to that of Westeros, a place that can only be reached in our imagination, the distance to Chibok in Northeastern Nigeria is negligible. I don’t profess to be wildly knowledgeable about the political climate or the unrest in that region of the world, but I have read about the over 200 abductions that have occurred there. If you haven’t, well:
On 15 April 2014, a group of militants attacked the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria. They broke into the school, shooting the guards. A large number of students were taken away in trucks, possibly into the Sambisa Forest. Houses in Chibok were also burnt down in the incident. The school had been closed for four weeks prior to the attack due to the deteriorating security situation, but students from multiple schools had been called in to take final exams in physics.
There were 530 students from multiple villages registered for the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination, although it was unclear how many were in attendance at the time of the attack. Initial reports said 85 students were kidnapped in the attack. Over the 19–20 April weekend, the military released a statement that said more than 100 of 129 kidnapped girls had been freed. However, the statement was retracted, and on 21 April, parents said 234 girls were missing. A number of the students escaped the kidnappers in two groups. According to the police approximately 276 children were taken in the attack of which 53 had escaped as of 2 May. Additional reports of missing girls were still coming in at that time.
“Game of Thrones” is, of course, the height of escapism. However, upon hearing Cersei deliver the line quoted at the top of this post, I couldn’t help but be reminded of this ongoing tragedy and immediately brought back to reality. Further reading on the subject indicates that the reality is more horrific than initially reported. Nick Cohen, writing in “The Guardian,” says, “A desire for sexual supremacy accompanies their loathing of knowledge. They take 220 schoolgirls as slaves and force them to convert to their version of Islam. They either rape them or sell them on for £10 or so to new masters. The girls are the victims of slavery, child abuse and forced marriage. Their captors are by extension slavers and rapists.” Will these revelations about Boko Haram’s activities in Nigeria provoke conversations – and more – regarding the United States’ unqualified reactions to terrorism in all its forms? I don’t know. I hope so. These events are, after all, not transpiring in a place that can only be reached by dragons, but there are certainly monsters there.