After the Taliban: Swat women on changing life

Swat in north-west Pakistan is still recovering from a period of militancy several years ago. Men and women deemed un-Islamic were killed by the Taliban and their bodies dumped on the street. Hundreds of girls' schools were destroyed before the army ousted the militants in 2009. A local school girl and Swat's first woman to train as a lawyer told Nosheen Abbas how life is changing.

Malala Yousafzai, 8th grade, Khushal school

Malala Yousufzai Malala Yousufzai recalls how the Taliban destroyed girls schools in the Swat valley.

The situation in Swat was normal until the Taliban appeared and destroyed the peace of Swat.

They started their inhuman activities, they slaughtered people in the squares of Mingora and they killed so many innocent people. Their first target was schools, especially girls schools. They blasted so many girls schools - more than 400 schools and more than 50,000 students suffered under the Taliban.

We were afraid the Taliban might throw acid on our faces or might kidnap us. They were barbarians, they could do anything. So at that time some of us would go to school in plain clothes, not in school uniform, just to pretend we are not students, and we hid our books under our shawls.

After the army operation the situation has become normal and the army is trying to rebuild good quality schools, but we want the schools to be rebuilt quickly because students are facing problems. It's very hot and they can't study in tents. Now everyone is free to come to school and the girls are now not afraid of the Taliban or anything that will ruin the peace of Swat.

Start Quote

Now things have changed here. Now we're not wearing burkas and we're allowed to go to market”

End Quote Malalai Yusufzai

When the Taliban came to Swat they banned women from going to the market and they banned shopping, but they did not know that women, whether from the East or West love shopping.

My mother also used to come to this market and one day she was scared by a Talib. The Talib said to her: "Why are you coming here and why are you not wearing the specific burka which we have told you to wear?" And he told her that she should not come to the market again. My mother rushed home because of the fear she felt.

Girls were allowed to go in rickshaws but the main thing was that they should wear the burka, the shuttlecock burka, because other types of burkas were not allowed.

Now things have changed here. Now we're not wearing burkas and we're allowed to go to market and there is no stress or pressure on us to wear the burka.

Saima Anwer, trainee lawyer

Saima Anwer Saima Anwer was depressed after she was told she could not attend classes because she was female

During the conflict I was in the first year of an LLB (bachelor of law degree). Those were difficult days for me. Our exams were going to be held but our administrators told us that our exams may be cancelled because of the conflict.

But when our second year class started we were notified that females could not attend classes, only males could attend. I was very depressed.

It was very difficult when I first joined this field especially when I went to the bar because there is no female lawyer or female colleague in this field. It was difficult to face a lot of males and to sit with them and discuss legal issues. I have no separate room. I don't even have a separate bathroom, I use the men's bathroom. But with the passage of time I felt that my colleagues began to accept support and appreciate me and my work.

Some people don't want to see me in the bar room and they want to discourage me, but most encourage me and I don't feel any hesitation or difficulty in discussing legal issues. I don't feel like I'm the only female now, because they encourage me and they never let me feel like I am alone.

Swat was the centre of tourism. My wish is that people and foreigners will come to Swat and see its beauty. Now there is peace here, there is no militancy, there is no conflict, there is no terror in Swat. There is a lot of natural beauty here.

One of my objectives for taking up law after the conflict is that I wanted to convey to the world that the people of Swat are not fundamentalists, they are not terrorists - in fact they are modern Pathans.

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