The small village of Sijban in Matta district looks like any ordinary rural Swat Valley - beautiful orchards are surrounded by snow covered peaks, and a roaring river flows cheerfully nearby. A closer look, however, reveals the real character of the village, and the endurance and bravery it has needed to survive. Matta district was at the heart of Taliban’s short rule over the Swat Valley in 2009 before Pakistan's army moved in and began the ongoing military operation.
During the chaos of the Taliban's uprising, it was school teacher Gul Khandana who found herself in the middle of a small but significant battle. Following a series of attacks on local girl's schools in the area, armed men came to burn down the school building where Gul Khandana taught. The school was more than a place of employment for her, she says, it was the same school where she was educated as a child.
The resistance of Gul Khandana led to personal attacks by the Taliban on her and family, who even threatening to burn their houses down. In the subsequent months during the ongoing military operations, Gul Khandana and her family were forced to moved to Mardan, a less troubled city in KPK province. Her family and many others from her village were unable to return for months, until the area was eventually cleared of Taliban by the army.
Gul Khandana says she was ecstatic to see the school intact when she came back to the village. Although the building was partially damaged, Gul Khandana promptly resumed educating girls, even admitting non local girls whose schools were destroyed during military operations.
Gul Khandana is now the headmistress of the school, and as passionate as ever about her job. She has been interviewed by various news organizations from around the world, and is proud to be a symbol of resistance for other women.
16 May 2013 14:39
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