By GENE HOWINGTON
Courage and heroism are often seen in unusual places and from unlikely people. How courageous and heroic were you at age seventeen? The place this story is set in not unusual; a war zone like the town of Ibrahimzai, a Shia-dominated region of Hangu, in north-western Pakistan. Hangu is on the edge of the highly volatile semi-autonomous tribal regions of northern Pakistan and subject to frequent attacks on the local Shia population by the radical Taliban and al-Qaeda influenced Sunni fundamentalist living in those rugged mountains. The person in this story was what most would consider an unlikely source of heroism – a seventeen year old school boy (although the BBC is reporting his age as fifteen). He wasn’t a solider although people remembering him did describe him as brave . . . and a good student. On the day in question, January 6, Aitzaz Hasan was just a young man hanging out before classes. Waiting for the start of a school day that for him would never come. He was with friends outside their school when they saw a man approaching wearing a suicide bomb vest. Although his friends begged him not to do anything, Hasan went to confront and stop the would-be suicide bomber. He stopped the bomber, in the process saving unknown numbers of the estimated 2,000 students in school that day, but at the cost of his own life when the bomber detonated the vest.
Rather than focus on their loss, Hasan’s family is focusing on his bravery. “My son made his mother cry, but saved hundreds of mothers from crying for their children,” said Mujahid Ali, Aitzaz’s father. Others still are calling for him to receive Pakistan’s highest military award, the Nishan-e-Haider.
Whether formally recognized by the state or not, it is not difficult to see the heroism of this young man’s selfless actions to protect his friends and schoolmates from traumatic injury and death at the hands of a radical who didn’t agree with the predominate religious tradition of the citizens of Ibrahimzai. Aitzaz Hasan may have been young, but the bravery of his act spoke volumes about his character. His family should be proud of him.
What do you think?