Gul-e-Khandana : ‘I told school attackers to burn me first’: Those who challenge Terrorists in Pakistan deserve recognition

Gul-e-Khandana, a primary school headmistress in Matta.

 For the love of her school: ‘I told school attackers to burn me first’
Express Tribune, December 3, 2010

SWAT: While fear and terror in the valley of Swat pushed everyone into acquiescence, Gul-e-Khandana not only resisted the militants but also saved her school from being blown up.
Gul-e-Khandana, who hails from Matta tehsil, is the headmistress of a primary school for girls in Sijban, Matta. “I have intense love for this school. Where I now teach, I studied as a young girl in primary school,” she tells The Express Tribune.

She is the first woman from her family who chose to work outside the house, despite family pressure. “My family did oppose me but I resisted them because I wanted the girls of my village to be educated. For the first two years, I taught without a salary,” she said.

Education and literacy have never fared very well in Swat and when the militants intensified their hold in the region, education suffered the most. While most residents took fright, Gul-e-Khandana refused to. “When the militants started bombing schools, I feared for my school. I decided to transfer the record and furniture of my school to my home,” Gul-e-Khandana recalls.

The situation only seemed to worsen as the government gradually lost its control, she said. “The militants banned education for girls and blew up the schools where they could study,” she said.

As expected, her school was also on the list of schools to be attacked. “When they came to attack my school, I ran to it frantically. As they prepared to torch it, I blocked their way and told them to burn me first,” she says. “With Allah’s blessing, they retreated and my school was safe.”

The militants then launched personal attacks on Gul-e-Khandana and her family. “They called us infidels and came to our home to take away the school’s furniture and records. My children, our whole family were petrified but I did not lose heart and refused to let them even touch it.”

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