How Not to Respond to the Peshawar School Attack – and some facts about it

While Pakistan and far too many Pakistanis continue to fight over the country’s stupid blasphemy law and waste their time and energies talking about other useless things–and while the Pakistani government continues to ban Youtube (this will always be a relevant remark, okay!)–the Taliban continue to destroy humanity. (No, America and colonialist-minded Americans and Westerners; this isn’t an invitation to America to come save poor Pakistanis from the Taliban! Up yours if you think America/its politics is the solution!)

Peshawar is yet again in the news for a heartbreaking reason: the Taliban’s deadliest attack in Pakistan—in Peshawar—that caused the murder of 146 people (and counting – there’s a live coverage of it on this website), 132 of them children between the ages of 10 and 18. Seven Taliban, all of whom now reportedly killed by the Pakistani army, were sent to the school to kill off innocent humans in retaliation against the army’s killings of—get this—“families and females,” according to a Taliban Spokesperson. He goes, “We just wanted to show the government what the pain is like.” dafuk!! What do you think YOU just did there?! Heal the pain of the families whose children and loved ones you just killed?! These killers killed individuals one by one, walking up to students asking them who among them belonged to a family affiliated with the Pakistani army. The children raising their hands, most probably with pride in their eyes and voices, were then shot dead … one by one.

Before the attack, the Taliban conducted a suicide attack so that the school guards would focus their attention on the bomb blast instead of the school, leaving the Taliban room and time to enter the school and go on a shooting rampage.

Peshawar School Kids

A photo of some students from the school

My heart goes out to the victims and their families. May God bless you all with the strength to cope with your losses. I have no comforting words to share with you, and I’m not going to pretend I understand your pain. No amount of condolences and no amount of solidarity with you all can bring your children—and their teachers and principals—back, but know that today, all of humanity stands with you. Today, everyone around the world has come to hear that your kids were plucked out of your lives, and everyone is praying for you and sending you positive vibes. For most of us, that’s all we can do, and it breaks our hearts, too, that there’s not much else we can do. God be with you all.

I’m impressed with social media’s response to the whole thing – basically, *everyone* is talking about it. That doesn’t happen often much. Normally, hardly anyone, or only Pakistanis and sometimes only Pashtuns, talk about the murders of people in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (northweestern Pakistan). The whole world is bleeding because Peshawar is bleeding because more than 140 children met their death today in one sitting. The murder of children points to the complete lack of respect for a community’s, a nation’s, a people’s future, and that’s why children’s deaths hit us this hard. With the child’s life, a future is stolen from humanity.

But as those of us who are not directly affected by these killings reflect over this tragedy, discussing it with friends and others, let us remember the following facts in addition to avoiding certain ways of talking about this incident.

how not to talk about the incident

1. Saying things like “those barbaric people did this!” isn’t helping the situation at all. Declaring the Taliban and other threatening humans and human forces “barbaric” is practically dismissing the problem altogether. It’s like saying, “Man, that’s in their blood; they’re a barbaric folk, and you can only expect barbarity from them, so there’s nothing to talk about.” No, goddamnit, there’s everything to talk about, and dismissing this as a barbaric, uncivilized act is NOT a part of the solution at all.

2. Don’t claim these children as “our own” because they’re not your own. That claim is coming from a privileged position of most probably living in the West or some luxurious parts of Pakistan where you’re never compelled to feel the pain of the people living under threat daily. These children belong to their parents, and no one but they will feel their loss most deeply. Besides, YOUR children aren’t living the same way those children did. (I know this is an assumption, and I don’t care. Just stop saying shit like “our children were killed today.”)

3. Stop referring to these killers, or any killers, as cowards. I get it, and I understand – I think they’re cowards, too, because they don’t have the strength to make their points in a non-violet way or without killing humans. But frankly, our calling them cowards means absolutely nothing, certainly not to them. Besides, I wonder if this is really cowardice … is killing another human, let alone hundreds of them, really such a cowardly act? I’m sure they don’t see it as cowardice.

4. Please don’t post pictures of the dead children. That’s disrespectful to them and their families, and, besides, do you ever post pics of dead children when they’re from the West, like when children are killed in the almost weekly/monthly attacks by white men in America?

5. Please stop saying, “This isn’t Islam” and “The Taliban aren’t Muslims”; just like declaring them cowards doesn’t help, so are these statements completely useless. Because a major, terrifying part of the problem is that these people ARE Muslim, and you and I don’t get a say in who’s Muslim and who’s not. Yes, violence in the name of God/religion/Islam isn’t from any religion at all and it’s all politics, but simply dismissing them as non-Muslim doesn’t help anyone understand this problem of violence looming over our heads. I know that no one actually means “it’s okay if they did this since they’re not Muslim,” but, actually, that’s exactly what we’re saying when we claim “they’re not Muslim!”/”This isn’t Islam!”

6. And importantly, don’t abuse this opportunity as a moment to attack Islam, all Pakistanis, or all Muslims everywhere. That’s just not fair. I don’t care WHO does what in the name of Islam or God, but killing humans–and even committing genocides–in the name of religion isn’t something new or something that only Muslims have control over. No, just because others do it and have always done it, too, doesn’t mean we don’t have to condemn when Muslims do it, but my point is that let’s not respond by saying, “See?! This is further proof that all Muslims are barbaric and want to kill people.” Remember that the people who were killed today were also Muslim, at least 95% of them, I’m sure. The Taliban, in addition to those white male killers in the U.S. who go on shooting sprees every now and then at children’s schools and theaters and neighborhoods and basically everywhere else, are our common enemy as one humanity. When you condemn all Muslims because of a group of violent humans who happen to be Muslims with the intention of standing up for the victims, you’re actually doing a disservice to the victims.

Facts about the incident

1. The Taliban attacked the school *because*, they said, they wanted to take revenge for all those times the Pakistani army has killed their own (militants, the Taliban, and, always, always, innocent lives in spaces where the Taliban are supposedly found – but I suspect the Taliban don’t give a cow’s dung about those lives). What did the Pakistani army do in response? They “carried out several raids including 10 airstrikes in Khyber Agency today” in response to this specific incident–and we are not hearing any reports about how many innocent lives were stolen in the army’s attacks. This is how the cycle of murder works. The Taliban say they’re taking revenge, and the army takes revenge in return, and the Taliban respond with the same thing and the army responds with the exact same violence. I’ll let you guess who suffers most in all of this (hint: it’s not the killers, whether from the army or from the Taliban).

2. This was merely ONE of the possibly a thousand attacks on schools in Pakistan during the last 2 years alone because: “The total number of reported militant attacks on schools in 2009-2012 was at least 838 and could be as high as 919,” 505 of them in 2009 alone (remember when the Taliban were reigning over Swat and banned female schools in 2009?).

3. These attacks will continue to happen, not just in schools but everywhere else as well. Today alone isn’t a “Black Day” in Pakistan – for so many Pakistanis, especially Pashtuns, every single day is a black day there, a day of mourning and losses and tears and blood.

4. Perhaps most importantly, this incident points to the complete lack of respect for human life by the killers. I can’t say more than this … this should tell us plenty about the value of human existence, of a beautiful future, of children, of children’s laughter and cries and fightings and yellings in the neighborhoods … Why are these killers so afraid to let people live?

Those are, in my opinion, the most important facts to remember about today. Other than the fact that 132 (and counting) children have been killed so far and over 10 innocent adults. Children are always innocent, so no need to describe these ones as “innocent children,” no?

Rest in peace …

What I’d like to know is, how does Pakistan and everyone else have access to these Taliban spokespeople and their leaders, who are still alive and making orders? As long as these people are alive, I will never believe any official claims from Pakistan that “X amount of Taliban killed” – because you’re not doing shit.

Also, this song … my God … so apt for literally every single day.

Starts off with:
“You were a city of a blooming flowers
A city of wounded hearts and of pain
Our Khushal [a Pashto poet] is weeping, as is Qalandar [another Pashto poet]
How can I not cry when Peshawar itself is crying”
Then goes on to say that every part, every corner, including the mountains and rivers and streets, of Peshawar are crying in pain.


15 thoughts on “How Not to Respond to the Peshawar School Attack – and some facts about it

  1. This is the most tragic terrorist attack in the country’s history, the only one that comes close in terms of death toll was the 2007 attack on Benazir when 170 people were killed in a bomb blast in Karachi(she survived that one).

    “What I’d like to know is, how does Pakistan and everyone else have access to these Taliban spokespeople and their leaders, who are still alive and making orders?”

    Mullah Fazlullah and the spokesman for the TTP, Umar Khorasani are both widely believed to be hiding in the Kunar/Nuristan region, which isn’t in Pakistan and the Afghan government says they have no control over these regions but there’s more to it

    “The disrupted plan involved Afghan intelligence trying to work with the Pakistan Taliban, allies of Al Qaeda, in order to find a trump card in a baroque regional power game that is likely to intensify after the American withdrawal next year, the officials said. And what started the hard feelings was that the Americans caught them red-handed.

    Tipped off to the plan, United States Special Forces raided an Afghan convoy that was ushering a senior Pakistan Taliban militant, Latif Mehsud, to Kabul for secret talks last month, and now have Mr. Mehsud in custody.

    Publicly, the Afghan government has described Mr. Mehsud as an insurgent peace emissary. But according to Afghan officials, the ultimate plan was to take revenge on the Pakistani military.

    In the murk of intrigue and paranoia that dominates the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Pakistanis have long had the upper hand. A favorite complaint of Afghan officials is how Pakistani military intelligence has sheltered and nurtured the Taliban and supported their insurgency against the Afghan government.

    Now, not content to be merely the target of a proxy war, the Afghan government decided to recruit proxies of its own by seeking to aid the Pakistan Taliban in their fight against Pakistan’s security forces, according to Afghan officials. And they were beginning to make progress over the past year, they say, before the American raid exposed them.

    The thinking, Afghan officials said, was that the Afghans could later gain an advantage in negotiations with the Pakistani government by offering to back off their support for the militants.

    Aiding the Pakistan Taliban was an “opportunity to bring peace on our terms,” one senior Afghan security official said.

    From the American standpoint, though, it has exposed a new level of futility in the war effort here. Not only has Washington failed to persuade Pakistan to stop using militants to destabilize its neighbors — a major American foreign policy goal in recent years — but its failure also appears to have persuaded Afghanistan to try the same thing.

    At the same time, the Pakistan Taliban shares its base in the tribal areas of Pakistan with a number of Islamist groups that have tried to mount attacks in the West, including the remnants of Al Qaeda’s original leadership. The Pakistan Taliban have also showed a willingness to strike beyond the region, unlike the Afghan Taliban. Mr. Mehsud, for instance, is suspected of having a role in the foiled plot to detonate a car bomb in Times Square in 2010, American officials said.

    American officials said they were also worried that the Afghan actions would give credibility to Pakistani complaints that enemies based in Afghanistan presented them with a threat equivalent to the Afghan insurgency. No one in the Western intelligence community believes the comparison to be anywhere close, given that the Afghan Taliban insurgency, with help from its Pakistani allies, has killed tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan in the past 12 years, including more than 2,000 Americans.

    Both Afghan and American officials said the Afghan plan to aid the Pakistan Taliban was in its preliminary stages when Mr. Mehsud was seized by American forces. But they agree on little else.”

    “Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for Mr. Karzai, said that Mr. Mehsud had been in contact with officials from the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, for “a long period of time.”

    The Pakistan Taliban leader “was part of an N.D.S. project like every other intelligence agency is doing,” Mr. Faizi said in an apparent reference to the support provided to the Afghan Taliban by Pakistan intelligence. “He was cooperating. He was engaged with the N.D.S. — this I can confirm.”

    “As a consolation, the Afghan officials said they now wanted Pakistan to know that Afghanistan could play dirty as well. One said they would try again if given the opportunity.”

    Pakistan and Afghanistan are both hurting each other by supporting two different factions of the Taliban and it’s splinter group, but the thing is both these groups are linked together, -if Pakistan only fights TTP but supports Afghan taliban it will harm Pakistan too and if Afghanistan continues support for the TTP and think they can defeat the Afghan Taliban, then they’re wrong.


  2. Inna lilaahi wa inna i’layhi raji’un. May Allah, the most Merciful and the Giver of Mercy, grant these innocent souls Jannat firadous, without account. May Allah grant their parents patience in the face of unimaginable heartbreak and loss and all their families are reunited in the Everlasting Gardens of peace. May Allah protect the children in Kyber Pukhtoonwa ameen, ameen.


    • Manana for reading, janana! Imp reminders that need to be reiterated constantly to a people set on humiliating others every chance they get.


  3. Pingback: Khuga Pekhawara (Pashto poem – with English translation) | Freedom from the Forbidden

  4. Reblogged this on SNPeterson and commented:
    And Orbala from ‘Freedom from the Forbidden’ brilliant article on the attacks. Orbala is a Pakistani/ Pashtun woman in the US and writes profusely on feminism, Pakistan politics and Pashtun history


  5. Pingback: Friday News | SNPeterson

    • Thanks for your response, Heba! I agree it’s completely wrong to kill people, especially children. I cannot imagine what makes anyone think that’s acceptable, especially for any religion at all. And sadly, Muslims, just like non-Muslims, do commit crimes left and right. It’s heartbreaking!


  6. Your points 5. & 6. contradict each other. Everyone who keeps saying “this isn’t Islam” or “Taliban aren’t Muslims” even after 10 years of such attacks is complicit in the non-resistance to these kinds of atrocities; and that is most Muslims in Pakistan, isn’t it?


    • I don’t see any contradiction in those points. Point 5 says not to dismiss the problem just because you believe that the Taliban are not Muslim because there’s no room for violence in Islam, and point 6, indirectly addressed to westerners and non-Muslims who greedily jump at every opportunity to attack all Muslims and Islam because “terrorism,” is saying exactly not to lump all Muslims together. There’s good and bad, peaceful and violent Muslims just like there’s good and bad, peaceful and violent Christians, Jews, Hindus, and “even” atheists.

      And, no, just because someone believes that the Taliban and other terrorists are not Muslim doesn’t make these people terrorists or complicit in the violence.

      And, oh hell no – “most Muslims in Pakistan” don’t support violence in the name of Islam!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: It’s Not About “Cartoons” | Muslim Reverie

You're welcome to share your thoughts - but I don't accept bigotry and don't publish all comments <3

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s