In the year 2016, what is the first thing that comes to mind when one is talking about terrorist organizations? Although I may be wrong, most people would say “ISIS”, the Muslim extremist group based out of Syria and Iraq. Ever since ISIS launched its initial campaign, claiming large amounts of territory within the aforementioned Middle Eastern countries, the news has been saturated with stories about ISIS brutally killing people and wrecking havoc throughout the world. ISIS is exactly what Al-Qaeda was after the 9/11 terrorist attacks: the most talked about extremist group in the world. However, while the mainstream news outlets mainly cover stories about ISIS, there is a terrorist group within Nigeria that is even more deadly when it comes to casualties inflicted.
The African-based group I am referring to is Boko Haram. In the year 2015, despite the fact ISIS garners all the media attention, Boko Haram was actually responsible for more deaths last year with the militant group killing an estimated 6,644 people. As for ISIS, the group commonly thought to be the most deadly, they ended up killing approximately 6,073 people. Now, I am aware this may not be an immense discrepancy, but one must ask the question: Why does ISIS get all the attention when they have killed less people than Boko Haram?
There is not a concrete answer to this question, but the mainstream news tends to avoid covering the tragedies taking place within Africa. I want to do the exact opposite because every area of the world deserves news coverage especially when a large amount of people are dying everyday. Therefore, I intend to educate people on the Muslim extremist group that is Boko Haram.
Boko Haram was founded in 2002 with an initial focus on opposing Western education, claiming their base of operation, Nigeria, is run by a group of “non-believers”. The group forbids Muslims from taking part in any form of Western customs, whether it is voting in elections, wearing t-shirts, or receiving a secular education. In fact, the name Boko Haram, translated from the Hausa Language, means “Western education is forbidden”.
In comparison to ISIS, who Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to, they have the same end goal: establishing an Islamic state within their base of operations. The group has fed off the mass poverty within Nigeria, recruiting people that join their movement as a last resort, much like any other terrorist organization. Analysts have asserted the only way for Boko Haram to completely be eradicated is from within; that is, the Nigerian government needs to gain legitimacy. They must find a way to end the chronic poverty in the Northern-African country as well as build an education system that is supported by the local Muslims. Terrorist groups only develop more legitimacy when the institution that is supposed to take care of the people (the government) cannot establish absolute control.
The mass casualties may be a little misleading when talking about the potent threat of Boko Haram, as the militant group has lost substantial territory after a coalition to fight them was formed. Nigeria, along with neighboring countries Chad, Cameroon, and Niger have made significant strides in reducing the threat of Boko Haram in the region, but the group still cannot be written off; they still possess approximately 9,000 fighters along with owning enormous amounts of weapons and money.
One could conclude the Boko Haram threat is not as strong as the ISIS threat, and that person is probably right. ISIS possesses almost 30,000 foreign fighters in its group and their head count only increases when taking into account the number of domestic fighters they have accumulated. This does not mean Boko Haram must be neglected in the media. They need to be talked about so the whole world can realize there are atrocities going on in places outside of the Middle East. Too often does the continent of Africa go unnoticed; it is time news outlets start covering everything going on in the world. ISIS gets all the headlines, with an Al-Qaeda story every now and then, but nothing about Boko Haram is reported. People cannot become informed about the world when they are being shielded from it.
–Contributed by R.A.