Today marks the first-year anniversary that 276 schoolgirls were abducted by the terrorist group Boko Haram in Chibok, Nigeria. The girls were studying secular education at a government-run boarding school when the terrorists disguised as guards broke into the dormitories and kidnapped them. Reports have emerged indicating the kidnapped girls have been raped, tortured, forced to convert to Islam and married off to Boko Haram members. In honor of the anniversary, Pakistani activist and advocate for women’s education, Malala Yousafzai penned an inspiring letter to the girls calling them her “brave sisters.”
“Like you, I was a target of militants who did not want girls to go to school,” The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner writes.
Yousafzai blogged about her struggle to receive an education under Taliban occupation and her views on education rights for women on BBC.
In October 2012, then 15-year-old Yousafzai was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban after several militants raided her school bus.
“Gunmen shot me and two of my friends on a school bus. All three of us survived and are back in school. Now we speak out on behalf of all girls about the right to get a proper education. Our campaign will continue until you and all girls and boys around the world are able to access a free, safe and quality secondary education.”
Yousafzai and her father visited Nigeria last July to advocate for the girls’ release. While there, they met with some of the parents and classmates of the victims and offered their support.
“They love you, and they miss you. My father and I wept and prayed with your parents – and they touched our hearts,” she writes.
Yousafzai critiqued Nigerian leaders’ and the international community’s efforts to free the captured girls.
“Nigerian leaders and the international community have not done enough to help you. They must do much more to help secure your release. I am among many people pressuring them to make sure you are freed,” Yousafzai said in her open letter.
The teen ends her letter with a positive note citing Nigeria’s newly-elected president’s, Muhammadu Buhari’s, vow to make the girls’ release his top priority. She also mentioned her own organization’s promise to provide the girls an education once they are freed. The Malala Fund has already offered girls who escaped Boko Haram last year full scholarships to finish their education.
The Malala Fund is also asking the international community to take part in their #DearSisters campaign and pen letters of their own to the 219 Chibok girls believed to be still held captive by Boko Haram.
“I look forward to the day I can hug each one of you, pray with you, and celebrate your freedom with your families,” Yousafzai writes. “Until then, stay strong, and never lose hope. You are my heroes.”
Read more: Meet The 'Malala' Of Syria, Mezon Almellehan