From the time we first read Greg Mortenson’s book ‘Three Cups of Tea’ and the follow up ‘Stones Into Schools’, which describes his mission to promote peace through education, particularly of girls – one school at a time, we have followed and supported his Central Asia Institute. Hundreds of village schools have been constructed and staffed in Afghanistan and Pakistan. College and University places have been supported and student hostels built and staffed and protected, all with the support of local people and against all the odds that war, poverty and ignorance can stack against enlightenment.
Now there is news of these tragic murders – they are not the first and they will not be the last. The courage of the local community in refusing to bow down to the militants should inspire everyone who believes in and hopes for a peaceful world – neighbour co-existing with neighbour. The Central Asia Institute is a mould-breaking organisation that needs and deserves support; you can help a little, if you have a mind to.
Alan, lucky enough to live in peaceful Okçular Köyü
June 24, 2012 – CAI teacher, village mullah killed for supporting girls’ education
With heavy hearts and immeasurable sadness we deliver news that militants have killed a CAI teacher and a high-ranking local mullah, who was also part of provincial leadership.
These two men risked and gave their lives to promote literacy and girls’ education in their Afghan village. Our prayers, condolences and support go to the widows, families and communities of these brave men. The Arabic words that Muslims use upon hearing of anyone’s death are, “Inna Lillahe wa inna eleihe rajioon.” In English, the words mean, “We are from Allah, and to Allah return.”
Afghan authorities are still investigating the murders, but witnesses have told CAI that non-local militants deliberately targeted the two men for death. The militants lured the men outside the village, conducted a short illegal tribunal, charged them both with spying for the Afghan government, and then brutally and summarily executed them. The men left behind two widows and 14 children.
Wakil Karimi, our Afghanistan program manager, and CAI were notified almost immediately after the tragedy. However, we wanted to ensure the men’s families were safe and supported before sharing this story. Afghan authorities have asked that the men’s names not be released until their investigation is complete.
CAI has had a long relationship with both men. We shared their joy in the early days, as they encouraged families to send their daughters to school in the mullah’s house, and then to a tent school. We shared their duas(prayer blessings) and excitement during groundbreaking for the new school and when the new school building opened for classes.
The school faced threats over the years, but the village shura (elders) and the mullah negotiated with the local militants not to harm the students or the school. Only recently, with the influx of non-local militants who have disrupted civil society in the area, did this tragedy unfold.
There are no words to adequately express the grief that CAI’s family in the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan feels over the loss of these men. Even though our overseas staff come from different countries, various Islamic sects, and multiple tribal and ethnic affiliations, we have all taken time to offer prayers and pledged to help the families in the future, including scholarships for the men’s children.
It would have been understandable if the community had opted to close the school or sever their ties with CAI to avoid further reprisals. But villagers have instead insisted that girls’ education will continue and that the men will not have died in vain. They have asked for a new teacher and CAI’s continued support. We will do everything in our power to honor that request.
If and when the time is right, and with permission from the families, CAI will release the names of the murdered teacher and mullah. In the meantime, please take a moment of silence to remember our friends, and, if you are inclined, please remember their families in your prayers.
Blessings of peace.
QUOTE: “When a great man dies, for years the light he leaves behind him lies on the paths of men.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
— Greg Mortenson