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QUETTA, Pakistan – The suicide bombing that on Saturday shook Hazara Town, home to my ethnic Hazara people who fled persecution in Afghanistan, was just the latest in a number of blasts targeting the Shiite community. But this one, which killed at least 84 and left almost 200 injured, hit very close to home for me.
I was working as a volunteer teacher, instructing English as a second language (ESL) students, at 5:30 p.m. when suddenly the classroom shook violently. We all heard a big, harsh sound. Everybody tried to rush out, but we were stuck in the classroom.
When I finally made it out, I saw all the windows in the school were broken. Some pieces of glass hit one of my colleagues, who was injured, but safe. It became clear this was not an earthquake; it was a bomb blast.
I heard horrifying screams. People were screaming in anguish. “Oh God! We have lost our loved ones!” “It’s a suicide blast!”
Those voices still echo in my ears. I can never forget the horror in those voices. Classes were canceled. On my way home, I saw the injured writhing in pain, and I saw the dead bodies. There were women and children, some as young as 10. I was crying, and I felt like I was weeping blood.
The blast happened just two streets from my classroom, in a big vegetable market where people, mainly women, were busy shopping for what they would prepare for dinner. Around this market there are schools, ESL centers and computer schools. As usual, there was a big crowd of people at that time of day.
Within a second, the bustling marketplace changed into a barren land. The blast took many lives, including 17 schoolchildren and two teachers.
I saw my neighbor, a pregnant woman, in the blast area. She was buying vegetables with her son, 12, when the bomb went off. She was severely burned, and her son was injured.
Later I learned that she was killed in the bombing, leaving behind four children and her husband.
I ask myself: Who will care for her children now? Who will help her injured son recover from his physical and emotional scars? What will terrorists motivated by religious and ethnic hate get from harming people like my neighbor and her family? Why is the Pakistani government and its police force not able to save innocent lives?
I cannot find answers to these questions. But my Hazara-Shia community is trying its best to resist and not give in to the terrorists’ hate in a moment of great grief. We will not take up guns in revenge.
All the men, women and even babies, along with my mother, are participating in an ongoing protest against the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi organization, which claimed credit for the attack, and their agenda of hate and terrorism. We want peace, and want our children to get an education in a peaceful environment. We want to have the basic human rights of life and religious freedom.
We are under a lot of pressure from all these killings, but we are not afraid.
This blast can make me and everyone else frightened for some moments, but the fear can never make me weak. Contrary to this, it makes me more determined to continue my education. And the most important fact for me is that I have a big responsibility toward my students. I will continue teaching my nation because I believe that students are the brightest future of a nation.
Though the youngest of my generation are being massacred on a great scale, they still continue to strive for an education. Education is the only weapon to courageously fight the terrorists.
The terrorism will end one day. Our education and path of non-violence will stay with us -- until we fully live.
Zainab Yaqubi is a high school student in Quetta, Pakistan, where she also volunteers as a teacher of English as a second language. She is an aspiring writer and poet, and writes in both Urdu and English.