Bring Back Our Girls

Joe Parkinson

‘Had me gripped from the outset’ Fergal Keane 
In the spring of 2014, an American rap star unwittingly triggered an online hurricane with the ease of a tweet. Hitting an unprecedented nerve on Twitter, accompanied with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, the message called for the release of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls who’d been kidnapped by a little-known Islamic terrorist sect called Boko Haram.
Bounty hunters, the manpower of western militaries and special Swiss agents were all deployed but they either met road block after road block or flew home empty-handed. Twitter flitted to the next crisis, leaving the Chibok girls to take survival into their own hands. As the days in captivity dragged into years, they became witnesses, and often victims, of unspeakable brutality that they chronicled in secret diaries. Many of the girls were Christians who refused to take the one easier path offered them – converting to Islam.

A heart-stopping thriller, a riveting narrative history and an incisive cultural analysis, Bring Back Our Girls is the definitive account of a kidnapping and digital campaign that changed our understanding of warfare, terrorism and online activism. With a plot that unfolds on four continents, from the remote forests of northern Nigeria to the White House; from clandestine meetings in Khartoum safe houses to century-old luxury hotels on picturesque lakes in the Swiss Alps, it is cautionary tale plumbing the promise and peril of an era whose politics are fuelled by the power of hashtag advocacy – and at the centre of which stand some exceptionally brave and resourceful girls.

First published:
March 18, 2021


Reviews for Bring Back Our Girls

‘It is difficult to imagine a more thorough and significant piece of reportage, for our troubled world, than this new book’ – The Scotsman

Illuminating . . . remarkable and humanizing‘ – Financial Times

‘Told with factual rigourcrisp political insight and deep compassion … a brilliant book’ – Daily Mail, BOOK OF THE WEEK

‘A brilliant investigation’ – Sunday Times

Everyone should read the testimonies of the Chibok girls who survived the capture … This book urges us to keep the stories of the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in the public consciousness’ – Malala

‘What the influencers who endorsed #BringBackOurGirls might do, though, is encourage their followers to read this finely writtenabsorbing book. Not only does it chart how the celebrity Twittersphere impacted one of the poorest corners of the planet, it does the far knottier reporting job of revealing what went on backstage, be it in the Nigerian and US governments, or the minds of Boko Haram commanders’ – Telegraph

‘Phew. It is fascinating and gripping‘ – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

‘A dramatic work of investigative journalism that supplies all the missing puzzle pieces, uncovering for the first time intimate and crucial details about the girls’ time in Sambisa forest, and the brave men and women who sacrificed so much to bring them back to their parents. A brilliant read‘ – Helon Habila, author of The Chibok Girls

‘A testament to the strength of the Chibok girls who resisted their captors and bravely asserted their humanity in the face of violent subjugation’ – Nadia Murad, 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

‘A most readable recounting of the immense passion and years of painstaking work that it took to return these kidnapped young girls to their mothers’ – Seymour Hersh

‘A journalistic masterclass: a detailed and compelling story of the unsung heroes who won the release of Nigeria’s schoolgirls after the social media circus had moved on’ – Tom Wright, New York Times bestselling co-author of Billion Dollar Whale

‘A nail-biter about survival told with Hitchcockian flair. Packed with their personal testimonies, along with fresh details of the hunt for them by a team of Swiss negotiators, Joe Parkinson and Drew Hinshaw have written a work of brilliant journalism’ – Lesley Stahl, correspondent, ‘60 Minutes’


Joe Parkinson