Gariwo: the gardens of the Righteous

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Aitzaz Hassan Bangish

Pakistan's Braveheart

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Pakistan, land of contradictions. On the one hand modernization and a long standing alliance with the USA, on the other hand rampant terrorism that attacks also children, like little Malala who was shot at her head at only 11 for defending the girls’ right to study. In this country where the value of education and civil coexistence have been steadily threatened by the Talibans, another young “Braveheart” was born, only to die to soon, at age 15: his name is Aitzaz Hassan Bangish, he is the student who sacrificed himself on 9 January to stem an assault against his schools. Aitzaz, a good and always brave student as his friends remember him, realized that a stranger wearing the uniform of his institute was asking where his school was. A face never seen before, a question that made no sense. Aitzaz saw the explosive belt and understood the guy was a terrorist. Against the opinion of his cousin, who was scared, he stood up and went to stop the kamikaze. “There are two thousands pupils in front of the school”, he explained, before reaching the attacker, shoving him, hurling himself against him and eventually exploding with him, saving all other youths with his own body. 
But this may seem as rhethorics. The concreteness and harshness of his father’s words tell about the value of his gesture better than thousands reflections: “He made his mother cry for despair, but he prevented dozens other mothers from mourning their children”. Peoples who are used to wringing every single water drop from the earth, plough up the land in mountain areas and walk for kilometers in the morning to go to school are still able to defeat the sense of impotence that is sharpened to us by not being there, talking about people and situations that are very far. 
Yet, terrorism hit also Italy not too long ago. Islamist terrorism hit Madrid, London, Cairo, Marrakech and New York, obviuously, on 11 September 2001. Even without having been personally to each of these places, we should keep our ability to see the Spaniards, the Britons, the Egyptians, the Moroccans and the New Yorkers, as well as all the people who move every day through these melting pots, as fellow human beings, and feel at least the wish to defend them and their cities from the horror of people who has lost respect even of their own lives and set on fire people’s lives, goods and feelings. 
Aitzaz has had this courage to defend two thousand pupils, whom he could not know one by one, till the end. He defended the people, the families, his school, his country – which has a medal for similar cases, but generally bestows it only on the militaries – and the desire to study and secure a future away from violence. Twitter users have launched the #aitzazbraveheart hashtag  to remember this boy who was vigilant, watched things closely, thought by himself and acted, sacrifying his life but saving many others, concrete lives made of blood and tears (thanks to him averted) of their mothers. And saving the heart of the Pakistani civil society which does not want to descend into chaos as happened to many neighbouring countries including Afghanistan. This is, and should be, a Righteous.    

Carolina Figini, Gariwo Editorial Staff

14 January 2014

Civil courage

the strength of human dignity

Genocide cases and extreme circumstances of human rights violations, persecutions and deprivation of freedom have occurred all over the world. Those who find the courage to oppose, safeguard their own moral integrity, assessing the duty of truth, reporting the crimes against humanity and struggling to defend the founding value of civil coexistence can be defined as Righteous peopleJournalists like Sihem Bensedrine in Tunisia and writers like Gao Xingjian in China, diplomats like Enrico Calamai in Argentina and artists like Sunila Abeysekera in Sri Lanka, students like Bo Kyi in Burma and (union) activists or politicians like Maria Elena Moyano in Peru, Guillermo Chen in Guatemala, Fannie Lou Hamer in the USA, scientists, lawyers, doctors, intellectuals like Vassili Nesterenko in Belarus, Sylvie Maunga Mbanga in Congo, Halima Bashir in Darfur, Hashem Aghajari in Iran. Not to forget the prominent female figures advocating the rights of women trampled on in many world areas, like Betty Makoni in Zimbawe, Hawa Aden Mohamed in Somalia,  Khalida Toumi Messaoudi in Algeria,  Lydia Chaco in Mexico.
As well as the best-known advocates of human and civil rights like Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, Anna Politkovskaja in Russia, Orhan Pamuk in Turkey, Natasha Kandic in Serbia and Svetlana Broz in Bosnia, Ayaan Hirsi Ali from Somalia, the mothers of Plaza de Mayo in Argentina. 

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