Geneva, 16 December 2014 – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Tuesday condemned what he described as “an utterly despicable and incomprehensibly vicious attack on defenceless children” at a co-educational school in the Pakistani city of Peshawar.
“The Taliban have sunk to an all-time depth with this attack,” Zeid said. “Everyone must now unite to combat this type of savage extremism. No government or intelligence agencies, no religious figures, no wealthy sponsors, no members of the general public can possibly justify continuing support for the Taliban, ISIL, Boko Haram, Al Qaida or any of these takfiri groups which appear to be competing to attain the highest level of human barbarity. We must all join together to counter such extremism and violence – not only in Pakistan, but anywhere where children’s rights and human rights are attacked in this way.”
“Nowhere in the world should it be an act of bravery for a child to attend school,” Zeid continued. “Yet, in parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria simply showing up at school takes tremendous courage and determination. In recent years, my staff have been receiving increasing frequent reports in these three countries of schools being destroyed or closed because of militants’ threats, and of schoolchildren – especially girls — being kidnapped, shot, attacked with acid or poisoned by groups whose ideology bears no resemblance to any religion or any cultural norm.”
The High Commissioner noted the powerful statement by Malala, herself the victim of such an attack by the Taliban in Swat, which lies to the north of Peshawar, when she received her Nobel Prize last week. Malala said she wished her generation would be “the last that sees empty class rooms, lost childhoods and wasted potentials,” and noted that despite her celebrity her home village does not yet have a secondary school for girls. During the Taliban occupation of Swat from 2007 to 2009, several hundred schools were closed or destroyed.
Zeid recalled that, in February 2013, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women urged the Government of Pakistan to take the necessary measures to prevent the occurrence of attacks and threats against educational institutions which undermine women and girls’ fundamental rights – and in particular the right to education — and to ensure that perpetrators of violent acts are promptly investigated, prosecuted and punished. They also requested the Government to consider the establishment of a rapid response system, so that whenever there are attacks on educational institutions they are promptly repaired or rebuilt, and educational materials replaced, so that children and students can be reintegrated into school and universities as soon as possible.