Malala Yousafzai -- the 15-year-old Pakistani girl militants tried to assassinate -- is the first signatory of a new worldwide petition launched today after terrorists, hell-bent on preventing girls being educated, murdered 14 students at an all girls' college in Pakistan.
The full horror of Saturday's terrorist attack on 45 girls on a college bus is only now becoming known. It now seems clear that suicide bombers, including one female terrorist, blew up the vehicle, before following the casualties to a nearby hospital, taking the injured, their relatives and nursing staff hostage and peppering the medical facility with bullets and grenades before blowing themselves up.
This latest atrocity brings to nearly one thousand the number of attacks on Pakistani, Afghan and African schools and colleges in recent years by terrorists wanting to prevent the education of girls -- and represents a descent into barbarism.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations has issued a statement calling the attacks 'heinous' and Malala herself, urging people to sign the petition, has issued a video and statement, saying:
Those involved in the attack on the Bolan Medical College girls are barbarians and they are devoid of humanity. These terrorists have no religion. They are the enemies of Islam and Muslims. The terrorists have shown that they are cowards and they have no morals and ethics.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a hard-line terrorist group with links to al-Qaeda, have now claimed responsibility for boarding a bus carrying 45 students and teachers at the female only Sardar Bahadar Khan Women's University in Quetta, the capital of the Baluchistan province. Having just completed their day's studies, the girls were targeted by a female suicide bomber who detonated an improvised bomb, killing 14 girls on the spot.
Later as the wounded were rushed for emergency medical treatment, three more suicide bombers invaded the hospital, took the injured, their relatives and the medical staff hostage, eventually blowing themselves up.
The names of seven out of the fourteen deceased students of have been confirmed as Abida Malik, Riyana Aurangzaib, Sunam, Noorul Ain, Shugafta, Sadaf and Atia, while the identity of other bodies was yet to be confirmed since they were completely disfigured.
This, the bloodiest atrocity yet in escalating violence against female students, comes eight months after the attempted assassination of Malala and her two friends Kainat and Shazia, targeted by terrorists just because they wanted to go to school.
In the intervening months a school principal in Karachi and some of his pupils were murdered as they assembled for a school prize giving ceremony one Saturday morning. A few days beforehand a female teacher in Malala's home of the Swat Valley was assassinated as she drove to the all-girls' school where she taught.
Extremists determined to close down girls' schools are partly responsible for the high number -- 30 million -- of girls around the world who continue to be entirely left out of school. Some are in child labour, others have become child brides, but even more are simply discriminated against because of opposition to the very principle of girls' education.
That is why today, in advance of Malala Day on July 12th, we are launching our worldwide petition to demand that global leaders ensure 57 million out-of-school girls and boys are given the chance of education by December 2015, the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals.
The fight for girls' education emphasises just how far short we have fallen in delivering those goals. Goals which set out to help the most vulnerable and the poorest have ended up leaving the most marginalised even further behind. By failing to reach the child labourer, the street child, the rural poor, the trafficked girl and the child bride, we have let down the very people we want to do most to help.
Now, as we approach 2015, many countries have seen the gaps between the rural and urban, the richest and poorest child widen. This shows that unless post-2015 goals include benchmarks for the progress of the most marginalised groups, they may be left even further behind.
Inspired by Malala's vision and determination that every single girl -- and boy -- is delivered their right to an education, today's petition, which will be submitted to the UN on July 12th, calls for all concerned individuals to stand with Malala in demanding world leaders provide the schools and teachers needed to ensure every child is in school and safe.
As Malala has said today: "The innocent girls who died on Saturday have nothing to do with politics and only wanted to empower themselves through education. Obtaining education is every man and woman's birth right and no one is allowed to take away this right from them."
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