“I will never be able to forget December 16th, 2014” – APS Attack Survivor Ahmad Nawaz narrates his horrific ordeal at the One Young World Summit as a hushed silence falls over the entire audience. His words take us back to the spine-chilling events of the day.
It is now 16th December 2019 – 5 years on since the massacre at Army Public School in Peshawar. Times flies, doesn’t it? Maybe for those of us whose family members are safe and alive, but definitely not for those people whose children, siblings and parents are not with them anymore.
Ahmad Nawaz is one of those people. He, himself was a witness to the massacre, which changed his life. Ahmad vowed to make sure something like that would never happen again. He became an activist for Peace and Education, and wants to empower the youth. His efforts are being noticed by the world, because of which he was invited to speak at the One Young World Summit 2019, in London, which is a platform used to connect the young leaders of the world, in order to bring about a positive change.
At the summit, Ahmad related his heartbreaking story, he briefly spoke about the massacre and how he couldn’t help anyone around him because he was himself shot, and all he could do was watch his friends and teachers losing their lives before his eyes.
Ahmad speaks of his tragic ordeal: “I laid there on the ground as silently and still as I could in agony, pretending to be dead in order to survive.”
“I saw my English teacher burned right in front of my eyes, and I couldn’t help her. My wounds didn’t let me help her.” – Ahmad Nawaz
He further spoke about how he was rushed to the hospital and almost lost his arm, and wasn’t even told that his 13 year old younger brother Haris, did not survive the massacre till about 15 days later. Ahmad desperately wanted to turn things around, he said:
“Only minutes ago, I was joking and playing around with my friends, whose dead bodies now surrounded me.”
“I will not let my story, or that of my brother and my friends, fade away and become a statistic…”
Ahmad spoke about how the ideology of terrorists is most effective on young, desperate and uneducated individuals. He wanted to help solve that problem, and to do so, he initiated an Anti-Radicalization project in the UK. He worked with at-risk youth educating them on the reality of terrorism and how it affects families everywhere. The campaign was a success, which lead to Ahmad working on a much larger, global scale. He launched the Ahmad Nawaz Empowerment Project, which targets youth in the high-risk areas of Pakistan where literacy rates are extremely low.
Ahmad helped provide two students with the funds to complete their higher education, and currently has helped a total of 50 young people from Pakistan and built a school for 300 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, under this project. He says that the change won’t stop there, and the project aims to build schools in other countries as well.
Ahmad encouraged the youth to use their voices to spark a change. He said he uses his own, because he is so determined to make sure nothing like this happens again, so children do not ever undergo the fear of being killed at school and to make the world a more peaceful and better place.
“I strongly believe that you young people have the power … you can use your voice to shine a light on the problems destroying our world or you can sit in silence. I use my voice because I’m determined that NO child should ever have the fear of being killed while in school.” He received a standing ovation for his speech.
Not just as Pakistanis, but as human beings, we should be so proud of Ahmad Nawaz and all the positive change he is bringing to the world. We are the future and the world needs more people like Ahmad to help encourage us, and make us realize that we are more than capable of bringing about change. All we have to do is not let a past tragedy, no matter how grave, define our future.