Aitzaz Hasan Bangash, age 14, stopped a suicide bomber from entering his school on January 6, laying down his life to protect his fellow students.
Do you know a 14-year-old who would act with such altruism, condemning himself to death by saving the lives of his 450 schoolmates?
This incredible act of bravery happened in Hangu, a remote town in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in northwestern Pakistan, where the entire student body, which totaled 450 students, was gathered together for the morning assembly.
The ninth grader was on his way to the Ibrahimzai School when the bomber, dressed in a school uniform, asked him where the school was, according to CNN.
Aitzaz and his cousin, Musadiq Ali Bangash, became suspicious, Musadiq said.
“The other students backed off, but Aitzaz challenged the bomber and tried to catch him. During the scuffle, the bomber panicked and detonated his bomb,” he said.
“I saw Aitzaz trying to get hold of a guy and then there was a big explosion,” said Habib Ali, who is a senior teacher at the school.
“He was an average student, but was a bold child,” the teacher said.
A Proud Father
In a statement on January 10, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recommended him for the highest civil award for bravery.
According to ABC Australia, Mujahid Ali Bangash, who is Aitzaz’s father, feels not sadness but pride over his son’s death:
“Aitzaz has made us proud by valiantly intercepting the bomber and saving the lives of hundreds of his fellow students,” he said.
“I am happy that my son has become a martyr by sacrificing his life for a noble cause.”
Mr Bangash works in the UAE and was only able to reach Ibrahimzai village, which lies in an area of Hangu dominated by minority Shiite Muslims, the day after his son’s funeral.
“Many people are coming to see me but if they try to express sympathy, I tell them to congratulate me instead on becoming the father of a martyr,” he said.
Another Malala Yousafzai?
Pakistanis are comparing Aitzaz to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban in October 2012 for promoting education for all boys and girls.
Malala Yousafzai was also 14, and an outspoken advocate of educating girls, when a Taliban gunman boarded her school bus and shot her in the head and neck.
After the shooting, Malala was flown from Pakistan to the UK for treatment. She and her family now live in Birmingham, England.
Malala is an awesome teenager, and her progress has been extraordinary. In July, 2012, the young Pakistani celebrated her sixteenth birthday by addressing the United Nations Youth Assembly in New York, a gathering of nearly 1,000 young people aged 12-25 from over 100 countries.
Why Are Schools in Pakistan Constant Attack?
Aitzaz and Malala are both extraordinary heroes, but the question remains: why is it that schools in Pakistan are so attractive to terrorists? So attractive, in fact, that many parents are choosing to keep their children home from school.
Hangu, the area where Aitzaz lived, borders Orakzai tribal region, one of Pakistan’s seven lawless tribal districts on the Afghan border, which is considered to be the hub of Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked militants. The Taliban are of course notorious for trying to prevent all children, and especially girls, from attending school.
This area of Pakistan is especially dangerous, but sectarian clashes abound throughout the country, with Sunni militant groups linked to Al Qaeda and the Taliban often attacking gatherings by Shiites, who constitute about 20 percent of the country’s population.
It is sad to note that while the Islamic people were once seen as one of the most advanced cultures of the world, flourishing especially in the Middle Ages, fundamentalist Islamists have created a hotbed of western hate and a fear of any kind of education, particularly the education of women.
All of which makes the actions of Aitzaz, and of Malala, especially heroic.
Yes, Prime Minister Sharif, please award Aitzaz the highest possible honor for bravery.
Photo Credit: CNN online video