Students huddled around candles on the Diag Wednesday night as a part of a vigil in honor of 19 people murdered by militants at Bacha Khan University in Pakistan Wednesday.
Organized by MPak, a student organization for Pakistani students, the event served as a space for more than 40 attendees to reflect on the tragedy and share their personal connections to it.
The attack on the university, located in the northern city of Charsadda, occurred a little over a year after a similar shooting in Peshawar in which about 150 people, mostly schoolchildren, were murdered by the Taliban in an act of terrorism. Though one Taliban commander has claimed responsibility for the Bacha Khan attack, according to the BBC, Pakistani security forces have yet to determine definitively which militant group carried it out.
MPak President Eman Hijab, an LSA senior, compared the two assaults and reflected on militants’ targeting of Pakistani schools.
“It was very numbing to be back to the same place and have the same emotions resurface as a year ago (in Peshawar),” she said. “It’s extremely upsetting to know that while Pakistan has progressed, there’s so much work to be done.”
All of the speakers at the vigil were either from or still had family in Pakistan, and shared emotional impact and links to individuals affected by the violence.
“It’s unfortunate that people can’t go to school in safety,” said LSA freshman Ramsha Awan, a Pakistani-American student. “And it hits home. It’s where I’m from, it’s where my ancestors are from. I want those people to feel safe and be educated.”
The attack was a part of what speakers at the event said was a recent spike in violence in Pakistan, but many speakers challenged the idea of the country as a violent state. LSA senior Haider Malik, who is from Peshawar, compared the militants’ fanaticism to the wave of political anger sweeping America.
“We live in times where our problems are amplified and our solutions simplified,” he said, citing a recent poll in which 30 percent of Americans said it would be OK to bomb Agrabah, the fictitious capital of the cartoon Aladdin.
“Think about the juxtaposition. Think about Pakistan. Those people have been subject to the same demagoguery and rhetoric that sways extremist opinion in this country.”
Hijab said political ramifications aside, it’s important for University students to pause and emotionally process these instances of violence.
“I never want myself or anyone to ever become desensitized to the loss of an individual,” she said. “We can’t be perpetuating the same violence and hostility that was the root of these shootings … and need to recognize that it’s OK to feel upset, to feel loss and grief, but always honor and remember those victims.”