The murder of over a hundred children by the Taleban in Peshawar left people furious but also frustrated. What can we do to stop the Taleban? Troops are leaving Afghanistan, combat mission over; we’ve no stomach for army casualties and drone strikes too often backfire. Every innocent farmer killed by a drone galvanises local support for the Taleban.
There’s a Pashto saying which gets to the point: ‘Be afraid of those who do not fear death.’ If we’re not prepared to risk much, and we’re not, it’s near impossible to defeat an enemy prepared to risk everything.
So, should we despair, shop for Christmas presents, forget about the Peshawar dead? No. There is something that you and I can do which will hit the Taleban where it hurts: we can support the building of schools in Afghanistan, especially schools for girls. A generation of educated Afghan women will fight from within, they’ll become teachers, doctors, politicians, they’ll raise sons who see through the pernicious nonsense spouted by the Taleban. There’s a huge and heartbreaking appetite to learn amongst Afghan girls. I wrote about it after a visit in 2010.
I went up country, to Takhar province in the north with a British doctor, Sarah Fane, whose charity Afghan Connection, has now built 39 schools and helped educate over 50,000 Afghan children. She’s unstoppable, Sarah, indefatigable, and I can vouch for the quality of the schools and how urgently they’re needed. Sarah’s raising money now to found the 42nd school, and I can’t think of a better response to the atrocity in Peshawar than to help her build it.