Following the difficult week that France has experienced following the frankly satanic attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, Amnesty International report as do the Guardian in this report, an attack that is probably the most bloody piece of work carried out by Boko Haram on a group of Nigerian villages and towns. Up to 2000 people died.
It has not hit the headlines in this country, probably because the victims were African, and were not, as far as anyone has reported, rude journalists and cartoonists. We know about and have had a fuss made of the Charlie Hebdo attack because, I suspect:
- the victims were white Europeans and we identified with them culturally
- we have plenty of TV images to feed our fascination
- our newspapers resonate wildly with any attack on other newspapers and defend to the death the ability to be rude or insulting in print
The villagers of Baga in northern Nigeria were not being rude in print, nor being “satirical” in any way, nor do they have film crews crawling all over the provinces. They were being human and Muslim and vulnerable and quite alone. That they are badly protected by an inadequate government in a country that is divided on religious lines is not the issue either. They were simply living lives in the villages and towns where God had placed them when some deluded un-Islamic men (their view of women is shown by the fact they sent a 10 year old girl with explosives to blow up a market in Maiduguri, Borno state yesterday) decided to attack again in the guise of the thief who comes, in Jesus’ words, to kill and steal and destroy. Just because they can.
This is, I have to say, more important than what happened in France, where at least some cause-and-effect was at work from a newspaper that was in many ways “asking for it”. Prior to this attack, it had a small circulation of 50,000 or so, and there was a really good reason for that!
In the words of Remy Maisel yesterday on the Politico website, je ne suis pas exactement Charlie. And have no wish to be.