WASHINGTON - US first lady Michelle Obama took the rare step of delivering President Barack Obama’s weekly radio address to express outrage over the kidnapping of some 200 girls by Boko Haram extremists in Nigeria last month, and paid tributes to Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai’s ‘courageous’ struggle for girls’ education.
The first lady, delivering her first solo White House weekly address, said the abduction triggered a personal reaction from her and USPresident Barack Obama. ‘In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters,’ Michelle Obama said in a video released on Saturday. ‘We see their hopes, their dreams and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.’
The first lady said in her remarks, broadcast the day before Mother’s Day, that 65 million girls around the world are not in school. She tied the kidnappings by the Boko Haram extremists to separate efforts to keep young women in other parts of the world out of school, including the shooting of Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan by the Taliban.
‘The courage and hope embodied by Malala and girls like her around the world should serve as a call to action,’ Mrs Obama said. ‘Like millions of people across the globe, my husband and I are outraged and heartbroken over the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls from their school dormitory in the middle of the night. ’This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education - grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls.’
President Obama, she said, has directed the USgovernment to do everything possible to support the Nigerian government’s efforts to find these girls and bring them home. ’In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes, their dreams – and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.’ Many of them may have been hesitant to send their daughters off to school, fearing that harm might come their way, she said.
‘But they took that risk because they believed in their daughters’ promise and wanted to give them every opportunity to succeed. The girls themselves also knew full well the dangers they might encounter. Their school had recently been closed due to terrorist threats but these girls still insisted on returning to take their exams, Mrs. Obama noted. They were so determined to move to the next level of their education so determined to one day build careers of their own and make their families and communities proud.’And what happened in Nigeria was not an isolated incident it’s a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions. ’It’s the story of girls like Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan.
‘Malala spoke out for girls’ education in her community and as a result, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman while on a school bus with her classmates. ’But fortunately Malala survived and when I met her last year, I could feel her passion and determination as she told me that girls’ education is still her life’s mission. ’As Malala said in her address to the United Nations, she said ‘The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.’
Moreover, the UN Security Council expressed outrage at the abduction of hundreds of Nigerian school girls in two attacks by Islamist militants, demanding their immediate release and threatening to take action.
Boko Haram kidnapped more than 250 girls from a secondary school in Chibok in remote northeastern Nigeria on April 14 and has threatened to sell them into slavery, while eight girls were taken from another village earlier this week.
‘The members of the Security Council expressed their intention to actively follow the situation of the abducted girls and to consider appropriate measures against Boko Haram,’ the 15-member council, which includes Nigeria, said in a statement.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said the UN Security Council should act quickly to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist group. ‘We’re working with Nigeria in the U.N. Security Council to secure urgently needed U.N. sanctions on Boko Haram,’ Power posted on Twitter. ‘Must hold its murderous leaders to account.’
Boko Haram’s five-year-old insurgency is aimed at reviving a medieval Islamic caliphate in modern Nigeria, whose 170 million people are split roughly evenly between Christians and Muslims, and it is becoming by far the biggest security threat to Africa’s top oil producer. The Security Council statement ‘demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all abducted girls still in captivity and further expressed their deep concern at statements made by the alleged leader of Boko Haram threatening to sell these girls as slaves.’
It also condemned the latest big Islamist attack in Nigeria, the killing of 125 people on Monday when gunmen rampaged through a town in the northeast near the Cameroon border.