A militant attack in Southwest Pakistan claimed the lives of at least 25 last Saturday, mostly students and nurses, at Sardar Bahadur Khan University, Baluchistan’s only all-female university. A suicide bomber hid on a bus at the end of the day that was to transport students back to a mostly Shi’a Hazara neighborhood before detonating and killing 14 and injuring many many more. Victims were taken to the university’s nearby hospital, where militants stormed the emergency room and a second suicide bomber detonated killing an additional 11 people while the militants indiscriminately opened-fire.
This is a disturbing view of the violence and anti-girl fervor that too many female students face around the world. After all, how often do we hear about all-male schools getting shut down, receiving bomb-threats, or getting blown-up because the school serves male students? That’s right. We don’t.
That’s because male education (while important, of course– ALL children have a right to an education and should be able to access it safely) is not threatening to the status quo. Patriarchy reproduces patriarchy, and increasingly, educated, thinking, breathing women showing some spark and life-blood are seen as absolutely terrifying to male-dominated extremist groups trying to maintain their power.
What’s particularly disturbing about the attack in Quetta, on top of the already heinous carnage and loss of life, promising young female lives I might add, is that the attack on the bus was carried out by a female suicide bomber.
Yes. A woman boarded a bus full of other female students, and then detonated on behalf of the Al-Qaeda affiliated Lashkar-e-Jhangri terrorist group.
Now. Women who commit acts of violence are an interesting topic, and one that is frequently exploited by the media to sensationalize and objectify women, neglecting to acknowledge the agency of these women as they make decisions and commit to courses of action. Violent women are often sexualized, identified as angry mothers/wives seeking revenge for their husband’s and/or sons’ deaths, or classified as monsters, mentally unstable or insane women who cannot be held responsible for their actions. Or some combination of the above list. (If you want to read more on the topic of violent women, I highly recommend Mothers, Monsters, Whores by Laura Sjoberg and Caron Gentry).
We’re not going to do that here. We’re not going to sexualize this woman. We’re not going to talk about any men who may be in her life. We’re not going to assume that she was coerced into this action. We’re not going to diagnose her as insane. Because women can and do make decisions and act upon them. After all, women are people.
What we will say is that we are disgusted over the attack, and greatly saddened by it as yet another component in an ever-growing web of resistent women face as they try to access an education. Further saddening is that it was a woman who attacked other women. There is too much difficulty in the world for women without women compromising each others’ future. We don’t need to think or act alike. We shouldn’t be clones of each other or claim that there is only one way to be a woman, a feminist. But I think we can agree that supporting each other to make decisions about our own lives, and being able to access the tools to make those decisions (i.e. education) is something we should all strive to do.