In the week in which America opened the door for negotiations with the Taliban, three bloody massacres of school children — shot down simply because they wanted to go to school — raise grave questions about what kind of peace the Taliban offer.
Within days of the initiative for talks, the Taliban shot to death nine foreign tourists encamped on the peak of Nanga Parbat in northern Pakistan, saying the murders were in retaliation for a drone attack that killed one of their leaders. But what kind of justification can possibly be offered for the firebombing of a college bus carrying forty girls from their Quetta campus in Pakistan? Fourteen defenseless girls died in the bombing; eight more people died when the terrorists ambushed the hospital.
We are confronted by a savage war waged by Islamic extremists against young people seeking education. In the wake of the outrage in Pakistan, two appalling massacres that killed 16 students were perpetrated in Nigeria by the country’s leading terrorist group, Boko Haram, whose name literally means, “Western education is sin.” It all underscores what is crucially missing from the seemingly good news that the Taliban, ensconced in its nice new headquarters in Doha, Qatar, has made two pledges for peace. One: to end the war peacefully, and a second to stop using Afghanistan as a base for terror strikes against other countries, as it did in 9/11.
But a peace deal will not bring violence to an end without a credible pledge to respect elementary human rights. Since last October, when a Taliban terrorist shot down 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai because she had stood up for the right of girls to go to school, there has been a clear pattern in the targeting of victims by Islamic extremists. The five who lost their lives in Monday’s killing in the Jajeri ward of Nigeria’s Maiduguri metropolis were students gunned down in the main school hall just a few minutes after they had started their annual exams. This episode — and the Sunday killings at another Nigerian school — resemble earlier attacks in Pakistan. There, only a few weeks ago, bombs were thrown into the playground of an all-girls school just as a Saturday morning open-air prize giving ceremony began. The head teacher and three pupils died.
Altogether 1,000 Pakistan and Afghanistan schools have been bombed, burnt down or simply closed through intimidation in the last three years. And despite last October’s worldwide reaction against the shooting of Malala, we have seen an escalation of the threats to — and the shooting and maiming of — boys and girls because they dare to go to school.