Monday, May 18, 2015

Boko Haram and the rural/urban dichotomy

In the midst of my distress over today's NYT story about the widespread rapes by Boko Haram militants in northeastern Nigeria, I was intrigued by the mention of "rural" in the story's lede.   
Hundreds of women and girls captured by Boko Haram have been raped, many repeatedly, in what officials and relief workers describe as a deliberate strategy to dominate rural residents and possibly even create a new generation of Islamist militants in Nigeria
In interviews, the women described being locked in houses by the dozen, at the beck and call of fighters who forced them to have sex, sometimes with the specific goal of impregnating them.
What is odd—and frustrating—is that journalist Adam Nossiter does not circle back in the story to explain the emphasis on "rural."  Is he suggesting that Boko Haram seeks only to dominate rural places and their residents?  or that it is only the rural places and residents that the militant muslims have thus far succeeded in dominating?  The story's only other mention of spatiality as it relates to the rural/urban axis is this one:
As the group has lost control of towns and thousands of people have fled in recent weeks, a grim picture of that treatment has emerged: hundreds of women and girls as young as 11 subjected to systematic, organized sexual violence.
Perhaps the point is that, until recently, the towns and villages of this region have been easy pickings for Boko Haram—that the Nigerian government has not devoted the resources to protecting these spatially dispersed residents who are presumably harder to reach.  Perhaps these places have been seen as less worthy of the government's investment in protecting them because fewer lives are at stake.  Perhaps it is the "space tames law/the state tames space" phenomenon I have associated with rurality.

This also reminds me of the attention that has been paid to the challenge that rurality and remoteness has created in Nepaelse efforts to respond to the earthquake there last month.  Read more here, here and here, along with this story about the reverse migration wrought by the natural disaster.

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