UPDATED 1/15/16, 7:51 A.M. EST: After meeting with the parents of the missing girls, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has created a panel for a new investigation in to the kidnappings.
President Buhari met Thursday with the parents of the more than 200 Chibok girls who were abducted as they took exams at school in April 2014.
Many of the parents were photographed with tears streaming down their faces in the closed meeting, where President Buhari reportedly stated, “I assure you that I go to bed and wake up every day with the Chibok girls on my mind.”
The President also reportedly assured the distraught parents that he and his administration are committed to the cause.
“In spite of the dire financial straits that we found the country in, I continue to do my best to support their efforts in that regard,” he said.
After the meeting, President Buhari ordered the establishment of a new panel to investigate both the kidnapping and the government’s response to the incident to date.
National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki will lead the panel.
Buhari’s administration says it doesn’t know whether the girls are alive or where they are located.
With it being 600 days since the students of Chibok’s Government Secondary School were abducted by Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram, the parents of the missing girls asked to meet Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari face to face Thursday.
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The April 2014 abduction of the Chibok girls garnered the attention of the world.
At the time, then-President Goodluck Jonathan was widely criticized for, first, refusing to accept that the kidnapping had occurred and then only agreeing to meet with the grieving parents of the missing girls three months after the incident due to Pakistani girl child education advocate Malala Yousafzai’s insistence.
And while the world over would demand the release of the girls, including U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, nearly two years later, the girls have not been returned to their families.
Information about the girls since their disappearance has been scarce. Last July, it was reported that, according to a number of rescued civilians, the girls had been married off and brainwashed.
At the time, Boko Haram survivor “Faith” said of a Chibok girl she personally knew, “She was just like any of the Boko Haram wives. We are more scared of the wives than the husbands.”
While “Miriam” said the group of “brainwashed” Chibok girls, who she alleges she saw kill Christians indiscriminately, told both her and a group of women, “‘You women should learn from your husbands because they are giving their blood for the cause. We must also go to war for Allah.’”
Faith’s and Miriam’s accounts jibe with Boko Haram leader Abubaker Shekau‘s threat: “These girls have become Muslims,” Shekau said. “We will never release them until after you release our brethren.”
Initially, he promised, “I abducted your girls. By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace.”
Meanwhile the parents of the Chibok girls as well as concerned citizens have held weekly protests about bringing their girls back, but with no progress made on the matter to date, some parents had given in to despair.
In August 2014, some parents demanded that the government return the bodies of their children since they no longer had faith that they were still alive.
Even more tragic was the news that some of the parents died of grief.
“Seven parents were killed during a raid by Boko Haram on Kautakari, a village close to Chibok, earlier this month,” the Associated Press (AP) quotes a health worker as saying.
“Another four parents have died of heart failure, high blood pressure and other illnesses blamed on the trauma caused by the abductions,” Chibok community leader Pogu Bitrus told AP.
But not all of the parents have given up.
While journalists were asked to leave the meeting President Buhari had with the parents at the Presidential Villa in Abuja this week, the closed-door meeting continues to show the President’s commitment to the #BringBackOurGirls movement.
See more photos of the meeting below: