[This story of incredible bravery needs to be widely distributed. As we try to make sense of such a senseless cowardly act, it is well to remember such bravery by these incredible women]

Pakistanis for Gender Equality, December 18, 2014

As the nation mourns the Peshawar school attack, let us also commend the exemplary bravery shown by these women (amongst others) who gave their lives in the hopes of protecting Pakistan’s tomorrow. Who says women are weak? Can our leaders show this kind of resolve to save this country from the TTP barbarians? Let us not let their sacrifices be in vain.

1) Tahira Qazi. Her personal assistant says she had the opportunity to escape the school but instead chose to stay with the students. As the militants fired shots, she rushed from classroom to classroom, shouting at those inside to lock themselves in. She consoled, protected, and ushered many students to safety. She even phoned parents to come and collect their children. One source says, “the honourable principal was asked by the terrorists ‘where are the students and why are you hiding them?’ She replied: ‘Talk to me, I am their mother.’ The terrorists replied ‘Ok, you die first, in a miserable way.’ She was burnt and bullets were fired in her head directly.”

Mrs Qazi was known to be one of the most experienced head teachers in the city, running the elite school. In 2012, she was awarded the principal of the year award for “achieving excellence and showing professional exuberance in her duty”. Her family described her as a passionate, dedicated, and committed person- more committed to the students of the school than to her own family.

2) Afsha Ahmed, only 24. When the TTP gunmen burst into her classroom, she jumped up and stood between them and the children before they could target anyone, saying ‘You can only kill my students over my dead body. I won’t see my students lying in blood on the floor.’ The militants doused her with petrol and set her on fire but she continued to urge her pupils to flee to safety. Several surviving students tearfully recall her selfless bravery.