Boko Haram released 21 kidnapped Chibok girls years after they were kidnapped, many more remain missing

Early Thursday morning, Nigerian government officials announced terrorist group Boko Haram release 21 Chibok girls of the roughly 276 kidnapped in April 2014 from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria. The girls were kidnapped in the night by Boko Haram militants, and many were reportedly sold as sex slaves or forced to marry Boko Haram militants. According to Nigerian government officials, the 21 girls were released as part of a deal struck between the African terrorist cell and the Red Cross and the Swiss government, CNN reports. However, no Boko Haram prisoners have been released in exchange.

The Swiss government “facilitated contacts between representatives of the Nigerian government and intermediaries of Boko Haram,” according to a Swiss government spokeswoman said in a statement.

According to Mallam Garba Shehu, a spokesman for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari who confirmed the girls’ release, the recently released women are “very tired” but otherwise doing fine.

However, while the freedom of 21 school girls is obviously good news, as The Washington Post notes, they still face a steep, uphill battle for justice, as Nigerian society continues to regard them as Boko Haram wives despite the fact that this was against their will. Boko Haram women rather than men have notably executed a substantial number of bombings, adding to Nigerians’ fear and hostility toward the recently released girls whom they suspect may have been indoctrinated.

Additionally, due to terrorist attacks destroying villages the young women may have lived in, many may also lack homes and families.

In the wake of the kidnapping of the 276 young women, U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama led a social media initiative to raise awareness about the plight of the missing Chibok girls, and add pressure to fight for their release. The hashtag #BringBackOurGirls quickly went viral, but despite this, for the past more than two years, almost nothing was heard of them.

Since April 2014, dozens of captured Chibok girls managed to escape according to reports. Thus, it is not quite clear how many girls remain in captivity, how many are free, and how many have been sold into sex slavery. Most recently, in May, Nigerian authorities confirmed that they had found one kidnapped Chibok girl free.

Since 2015, the Nigerian military collaborating with other African countries has recaptured a sizable amount of Boko Haram’s territory, which was once equivalent to the size of Belgium, The Independent reports. And despite the obstacles that remain, its latest victory in negotiating 21 Chibok girls’ freedom is cause for optimism.