On the 22nd of May 2017, the city of Manchester in the United Kingdom became the new front line of the war against terror. At the conclusion of a concert by American singer, Ariana Grande, a 22 year old suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance of the Manchester arena. Most attendees were young adults and children. Unfortunately, most fatalities were young adults and children too. Notably, the attacker was, himself, a young person who should’ve been pursuing his education. However, he was an ISIS ideologue, brainwashed into destroying the lives of young innocents.
In the past 5 years we’ve seen a surge in attacks carried out by terrorists against young people. In 2014 a brutal attack by the Taliban on a military school in the North Western city of Pakistan, Peshawar left 148 people dead. The majority of the victims were school-going children. According to reports, seven militants affiliated to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan entered the building at 10:30 am; they disguised themselves as military officers. Most of the students were in the school’s auditorium. The strategy used by the assailants was somewhat similar to what we saw in the Manchester arena attack.
There was protest and uproar around the globe. Numerous international human rights organizations condemned the attack. Nevertheless, little action was taken to prevent the most vulnerable people (including young people) from future attacks of this kind. Hashtags and slogans proliferated on social media but, in reality, school-age children in Pakistan, including me, remained afraid to go to school — we saw nothing tending towards a concrete counter-terrorism from the government.
The following year, 2015, young people were yet again targeted by terrorists, this time in Kenya. Garissa University was attacked by Al-Shabaab militants. 152 people were massacred in the attack. Garissa is located 200 kilometers away from Kenya’s border with war torn Somalia so even though it was considered as one of the safest places in Kenya, it was still vulnerable. The assailants targeted only Christian students to sew division between the Muslim and Christian communities of Garissa. The siege ended when security forces entered the premises and gunned down the militants. Since then the government has begun to rethink its strategy. However, even after two years, Garissa is still on edge.
Even prior to these incidents, many atrocities were committed against children and young people over the last two decades. The Sandy Hook massacre in the US in 2012, and the Beslan school massacre in Russia in 2004 are two examples. This alerts us to the fact that these heinous actions are not limited to organized terrorist groups, nor to particular parts of the world. The sad part is that children and young people are being used in these global conflicts.
The world has witnessed attacks on schools, universities and other places where young people congregate almost every year since the start of the 2000s yet there’s not much uproar about it. It is as if we are murdering humanity’s future with our own hands.
Clearly, the modern day terrorist organizations are applying a new strategy; they’re trying to destroy our future to make it easier for them to implement their barbaric laws. You can see why Malala Yousufzai was targeted. She was unique in her community, and she could’ve taken her people forward. We’ve seen military garrisons, police stations, and government buildings being attacked. Now we see an alarming shift — sites of innocence like schools, universities, and concerts are now targets for death and destruction.
I hope that governments will join hands after this most recent evil incursion to protect young people around the globe. Let’s hope that the Manchester Arena bombing was the last attack on young people for the foreseeable future.