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Attack on Malala Yousafzai strengthens resolve of schoolgirls
Taliban are mistaken if they think they can scare girls away from school, students say.
By Ashfaq Yusafzai
MINGORA – Militants who tried to kill Malala Yousafzai have strengthened the resolve of schoolgirls to attend school, her friends said.
Girls who saw a gunman shoot the 14-year-old pro-education activist and two schoolmates on their bus in Mingora October 9, contrary to the militants’ expectations, are not backing down on their hopes and dreams of getting an education.
“The clear proof of our bravery is that – when the attackers asked us 'Who among you is Malala?' – none of us replied seconds before (the shooter) began firing,” one of the other two injured girls, said 10th-grader Shazia, who is recovering from bullet wounds to her shoulder and neck.
The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)’s claim of responsibility bears no meaning for us, she said.
“We know the Taliban militants 'execute' their opponents,” she said. “We know that only the Taliban can do this uncivilised act of attacking girls.”
They and their families remember the atrocities the Taliban committed during the militants’ two-year reign of terror (2007-2009) in Swat. Atrocities like killing women; bombing mosques, schools and funeral ceremonies and displaying foes’ severed heads, she said.
“I was neither scared the moment when the gunmen approached us, nor am I now, because we went to school (anyway) when Swat was under the Taliban and thousands of students had opted to stay home,” she recalled.
“This (attack) cannot dent our determination, and the only weapon is to arm girls with education and defeat guns with pens,” said Kanat, the third girl injured in the shooting. “We will continue education to accomplish Malala’s mission.”
There’s no looking back for her, she told Central Asia Online from her bed, adding she plans to become a doctor.
TTP tactics won’t deter girls
The TTP want to frighten students into abandoning school, but won’t succeed, said Asma Ali, a physics teacher at Malala’s school. Students showed their defiance when they turned up in droves for the October 12 morning assembly to pray for Malala.
The credit for that attitude belongs to Malala, she said, adding, “Our students aren’t afraid.” The attempted murder of Malala, a 14-year-old Mingora resident who blogged in 2009 under a pen name for the BBC Urdu service about the Taliban’s abuses, has aroused widespread debate in Pakistan but has not shaken the resolve of girls in Mingora.
“If we feared the Taliban, we couldn’t get education; therefore, we are totally oblivious to the Taliban’s attacks,” said Spogmay, a 7th-grade girl who was on Malala’s bus.
"It was like hell. For a moment, I thought we would not survive, the way (the gunman) fired at us indiscriminately,” Spogmay said. Shazia expressed hope for Malala’s recovery.
“I am sure that the scales of justice would tip in our favour and ever-smiling, brave and intelligent Malala will regain health very soon,” Shazia, Malala’s best friend, said, adding the students would rally around Malala to ensure women’s education in the future. “I will give my life in exchange for Malala’s. Losing a friend like her is unbearable.” Shazia recalled how Malala persuaded the girls to attend schools in the Taliban era.
“Malala used to tell us they should wear veils in compliance with the Taliban’s directives ... but shouldn’t remain absent,” she said. “We have promised Malala that we should fight the Taliban with pen and books and I will keep that promise even at the cost of my life,” Saeeda, an 8th-grade student at the same school, said.
Malala told the girls on a daily basis that “The Taliban are the enemy of humanity and Islam. We should stand up against them to thwart their efforts aiming to bar women from schools,” Saeeda said. Malala’s approach kept up the courage of all 500 girls at the school, Saeeda said.
“My parents advised me to stay home during the Taliban’s rule, but I had promised Malala that I will never miss school,” she said. “All the people must pray for Malala. She is the beacon of hope for millions of girls.”
Parents equally determined
Fathers of Malala’s schoolmates were determined not to let the Taliban chase their daughters from the schools.
“She is extremely concerned about education and has been asking different questions,” Shazia’s father, Muhammad Ramzan, said. “But I prevailed upon her that everything will be right, and they would be in school again.” Ramzan said he worried over Malala’s condition as if she were his own daughter. “I am a proud father because my daughter has proved that she is not afraid of anyone,” he said.
Jamil Shah, Saeeda’s father, said he would stand by his daughter through thick and thin and would spare no effort to ensure that she gets an education.