The small village of Sijban in Matta district looks like any ordinary rural Swat Valley with its beautiful orchards surrounded by snow covered peaks and roaring river that flows nearby, but a closer look reveals the real character of the village, its endurance and bravery. Matta district was heart of Taliban’s short rule over the Swat Valley in 2009 before Pakistan army moved in and started a military operation that still goes on.
During the chaos of the Taliban uprising and military operation, it was school teacher Gul-e-Khandana who found herself in middle of a small but significant battle with the odds. Following the series of attacks on local girl schools in the area, armed men came to burn down the school building Gul-e-Khandana taught in. The school was more than a place of employment for her she says, it’s the same school she got her education from when she was a kid.
The resistance of Gul-e-Khandana led to personal attacks by Taliban on her and family even threatening to burn their houses down. In the subsequent months during military operation Gul-e-Khandana along with her family had to move to Mardan, a less troubled city in KPK province. The family and other villagers were not able to come back for months until the area was cleared off Taliban by the army.
Gul-e-Khandana says she was ecstatic to see the school in tact when she came back to the village. Although the building was damaged, it was still intact to her relief. Gul-e-Khandana resumed educating the local girls upon her return and even admitted girls from other schools who were destroyed during the operation.
Gul-e-Khandana is now the head mistress of the school and passionate as always about her job. She has been interviewed by various news organization from around the world and she is proud to be a symbol of resistance for other women.