They were stolen from their beds in a school dormitory: hundreds of teenage girls kidnapped by gunmen.
A few dozen escaped to tell of the night Boko Haram militants brought terror to a Nigerian girls’ school.
From the rest, silence. No sign of where they had been taken or what could have happened to them for almost two years, even as the world screamed #BringBackOurGirls.
Hundreds of parents left, day after day, night after night, and then months with no information.
CNN obtained a video of some of the “Chibok Girls” sent to negotiators by their captors as a “proof of life.”
The video had been seen by negotiators and some members of the government.
But no one had shown the parents. Until now.
Rifkatu Ayuba catches sight of her long-lost, desperately missed, now 17-year-old. “My Saratu!” she wails, reaching out to a laptop screen, the closest she’s been to her child in two years. She is desperate to comfort her little girl, but helpless.
Saratu Ayuba is one of 15 girls seen in the recording shown to some of the families for the first time at an emotional meeting this week. Wearing a purple abaya, with a patterned brown scarf covering her hair, Saratu stares directly into the camera.
“I felt like removing her from the screen,” Ayuba tells us, desperate to pluck Saratu from the mysterious location where she is being held and bring her home. “If I could, I would have removed her from the screen.”
The video is believed to have been made last December as part of negotiations between the government and Boko Haram.
It was released by someone keen to give the girls’ parents hope that some of their daughters are still alive, and to motivate the government to help release them.
The girls, their hair covered and wearing long, flowing robes, line up against a dirty yellow wall. They show no obvious signs of maltreatment.