Emotional Day: Chibok Girls Reunite With Families

Nigeria trying to negotiate return of others—but 100-plus don't seem to want to leave
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2016 1:44 PM CDT
Emotional Day: Chibok Girls Reunite With Families
Family members celebrate after being reunited with the kidnapped girls during a church service held in Abuja, Nigeria.   (AP Photo/Olamikan Gbemiga)

Twenty-one Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped in April 2014 by Boko Haram extremists in Nigeria were released last week, and on Sunday, they had what they've been wishing for for more than two years: reunions with their families. It was an emotional scene at a welcome-home ceremony in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, with plenty of tight embraces, singing, and tears of joy, per CNN and the New York Times. One woman even lifted her daughter onto her back and carried her like an infant, CNN notes. "I felt like it was the day that I born her into this world," one ecstatic mother said, per the Times. "I danced and danced and danced." Some of the freed girls held up Bibles at an earlier church service as a sign they were reclaiming their Christianity after being forced by their captors to convert to Islam.

But not all the tears at Sunday's ceremony were from happiness. Some attendees at the reunion have daughters who are among the 200 or so still missing—and the stories the returned captives tell is a grim one. They say they were given the option to join up with the militants as their wives and turn to Islam or else be turned into slaves responsible for cooking, cleaning, and other chores; about half chose each option. They often went hungry, and some died in the Sambisa Forest where they were being held. And while the Nigerian government is trying to negotiate to free the other captives, there's been a disturbing development: More than 100 of them seem unwilling to return home, either because they've been radicalized or because they feel shame at marrying their captors and having babies with them, the head of the Chibok Development Association tells the AP. (More Nigeria stories.)

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