"(WNN/PL) Sijban, PAKISTAN, SOUTHERN ASIA: In a rundown building in the mountain village of Sijban, girls sit at their desks, hair loosely covered in white or black scarves, staring raptly at their teacher. They say they want to become either doctors or teachers when they grow up. This is the one government primary school for girls in the Swat valley that was spared destruction by the Taliban. Their headteacher, Gul-e-Khandana, is no ordinary teacher – she stood up to the Taliban and managed to save the school where she had taught for more than 20 years.
She still shudders as she recalls what happened: “A group of Taliban arrived with Kalashnikovs at the school building just before the school holidays in June 2008. I ran out and told them: ‘You will have to kill me first before you torch my school’. They called me a kaffir [non-believer] and said they would be back.”
The Taliban had already destroyed the nearby girls’ middle school so, fearing the worst, Gul-e-Khandana removed the furniture and school records to her home. The girls had already stopped coming to school. But Gul-e-Khandana was determined. She was denounced on the radio, which was controlled by the militants. Her neighbors stopped talking to her and her extended family broke off all ties.
When the military operation began to flush out the Taliban from Swat later that year, Gul-e-Khandana fled, smuggling the school records under her burka. “Everyone thought I was crazy but I thought one day the Taliban will leave and we will re-open the school and the girls will come back. I wanted to keep the certificates and records.”
Read article by Panos London from Women News Network.