The innocent victims of senseless acts

It is unfortunate that in the war of ideology and the evil quest for power,
children fall victim to the crossfire of needless violence

  • Remember Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani girl from the province of Swat who gained international fame when the Taliban shot her in the head in an attempt to silence her? Malala grew up in a popular tourist venue famous for its natural beauty and its summer festivals.

    When the Taliban gained a foothold in the province, such festivities began to disappear along with most of the tourists. The Taliban carried over their doctrine of intolerance towards the education of girls. Malala, who was enrolled in a school her father had started reacted by giving a speech back in 2008 titled “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?”

    She also started blogging for a major newssite under an assumed name, and as her support grew, she began to go public about the right of all women to an education. For her tireless activism at such a tender age, she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011. In the same year, she was also awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize.

     

    Once her identity became public, the Taliban issued a death threat against her, and they carried out their vile intentions on an attack in October 2012 against this 14-year-old girl when she was riding a bus home from school. According to published accounts, a gunman boarded the bus and demanded to know who Malala was. “Which one of you is Malala? Speak up, otherwise I will shoot you all” he threatened and guessing correctly by the frightened look of other school children towards Malala, he then approached her and fired his gun point blank at her head, and injured two other school girls in the process.

    She remained unconscious and in critical condition for weeks following the attack. A military hospital in Peshawar removed a portion of her skull to treat her swelling brain. Once her condition showed signs of improvement, she was flown to the UK, where she remained under treatment for the next few months. Less than six months after the attack, Malala began attending a school in Birmingham, fortunate that her injuries did not damage her brain.

    Preventing dastardly act

    The international outrage that followed the shooting prompted a wave of action in Pakistan and elsewhere. The Pakistanis, fed up with the doctrine of Talibanism on their soil, demanded that their government weed out these miscreants off their soil. The then president of the country called the act as a heinous attack on ‘civilised people.’

    Malala went on to garner international accolades and was even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She stood before the United Nations on her 16th birthday in 2013 and gave a speech about the rights of children to education to a standing ovation. In her oratory she said, “The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born … I’m here to speak up for the right of education for every child.” She has also written her autobiography, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, that was released in October 2013.

    Malala was a fortunate 15-year-old. Another 15-year-old Pakistani was not so fortunate. Aitzaz Hassan died last week in a selfless act that has yet to command the international attention that followed Malala’s shooting. This brave boy intervened at the price of his own life to prevent a suicide bomber from carrying out his dastardly mission.

    According to media reports, the incident which took place last week happened in a region in north-western Pakistan known for the proliferation of Taliban activity and a beehive of fundamentalism and extremism. Hassan, was outside the school grounds with some friends when they noticed a man with a suspicious gait and a vest seemingly loaded with explosives walking purposefully towards the school which had almost 2,000 students in attendance at the time of the attack

    Hassan and his friends immediately guessed the man’s motives, but it was Hassan who went forward against the pleadings of his mates to prevent the man from causing harm to his friends and school. He told them he had to stop him. He had to do it. ‘He is going to school to kill my friends’. As he wrested with the bomber outside the school gates, the coward released the detonators and the explosion killed both of them, but mercifully there were no other reported serious injuries.

    Although his sacrifice has been noted by some international and regional media, his ultimate sacrifice has yet to gain an international foothold. It may come in time. As one writer noted, “It is sad and encouraging at the same time to hear such a story about a Pakistani young boy. It is sad because he was young and had not yet lived his life. His mother and father, his sisters and brother will miss him; he was a child who had dreams and plans and talents which now will never be explored, which cannot come true. But still, his life was not wasted. It was sacrificed for the lives of so many other children, whose dreams and plans can now come true.”

    It is unfortunate that in the war of ideology and the evil quest for power, children fall victim to the crossfire of needless violence. Many die without knowing it is coming. A few are brave enough to prevent more deaths without consideration to their own personal safety. Hassan was one such 15-year-old who for the sake of others paid the ultimate price. Let his name be heralded by all peace-loving people and rank high among our heroes. I salute you Aitzaz, and may God have mercy on your soul.

    Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@talmaeena

    By Tariq A. Al Maeena |  Gulf News

    • Published: 16:00 January 12, 2014
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