Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

The War on Terror Is a War on Women: The Impact of Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism on Women's Education in Swat, Khyber Pukhtunkhwah (Pakistan)

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

The War on Terror Is a War on Women: The Impact of Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism on Women's Education in Swat, Khyber Pukhtunkhwah (Pakistan)

Article excerpt


Terrorism and the war on terror are two major sources of disruption and violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan. These conflicts have greatly affected the common peoples' lives with intense destruction of their education system, particularly girls' education. This study includes a case study of the district of Swat (in Pukhtunkhwah Province, Pakistan), which had been under the direct control of the Taliban for more than two years (2007-09). This is a story about the birthplace of the renowned education and peace activist Malala Yousafzai, who was the target of a murder attempt for her explicit support of girls' and women's education. The Taliban wanted to stop her voice but failed, and now the Swat valley echoes with many similar voices.

Sadly, Malala's story is not unique. Throughout the world, girls are neglected, denied education, physically mistreated, sexually abused, sold into slavery, mutilated, and married against their will in the name of tradition, religion, honor, and male entitlement (Mary Ellsberg, George Washington University). My study will introduce more Malalas who stood up for their education and to date are living in Swat serving in peace-building and peace-keeping efforts.

Swat was a developed princely state of North West India in the 17th century. Mian Gul Abdul Wadud was the first Wali Sahib (ruler) of Swat in 1917. He developed a well-established education system for both genders along with other amenities for his people. His own judicial system (Dasturul Amal) was famous for prompt law and order. The state provided access to higher education in the early 1950s. The state had good educational infrastructure; from 1949-69 there were 3 colleges, 36 high schools, 30 middle schools, and more than 270 primary and lower primary schools (both girls and boys), as well as 16 hospitals and 45 dispensaries (Rome, 2009). According to the NWFP Annual Statistical Report (2009), before the conflict, the total number of schools for both genders was 1270 primary schools, 132 middle schools, 87 high schools, 17 higher secondary schools, and 8 degree colleges (See Rome, 2009 and 2008 for further contextual background information of Swat). After the incorporation of Swat into Pakistan in 1969, Rome (2008) criticised the development works in Swat because, while the educational institutes, schools, colleges, and vocational training centers for women increased in numbers, they decreased in quality standards. The government of Pakistan failed to integrate Swat fully into Pakistan (Aziz and Luras, 2010) under PATA (Provincially Autonomous Tribal Area) regulations. According to Fleischner (2011),

the absence of democratic representation at local level exacerbated
class differentiation and left the poor powerless against the political
elite in terms of access to justice and economic inequalities. Over to
these, the decades long social, economic and political inequalities,
Khanism (Landlordism), ethnic or religious fractionalization and weak
government judicial system locally know as western judicial system
increased the grievances of the people particularly marginalized
classes instead of giving them relief. (cited in Rome, 2009:27)

These factors have led to the fragmentation of the social system and coerced local people to support and join the new networks of the Taliban with hope, greed, and grievances (Aziz and Luras, 2010). The Taliban destroyed and damaged both girls' and boys' schools in the area; while they did not openly oppose boys' education, they damaged it along with girls' education. Similarly, the state military operations (2007-2009) further destroyed and damaged schools and caused the displacement of 600,000 inhabitants to other parts of Pakistan.

The aim of this study is to explore the cause and effect relationship of war and displacement on women's education attainment and to analyze women's lived experiences of their education attainment. …

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