This relates to the twin suicide attacks at the International Islamic University of Islamabad in October 2009. One of the targets was the women students’ cafeteria. (Here is BBC and Guardian coverage.) An injured survivor of that attack has written a brief piece about her experience, over two years later.
I received this from Major (Retd.) Tahir Wadood Malik, who was featured along with IIUI survivors in a moving Channel 4 Dispatches documentary about terrorism in Islamabad: City of Fear. His comments are given below, followed by Sayra’s story.
May Allah help us all to overcome this menace of extremism that we are faced with in Pakistan, aamin.
If you have any comments or want to send her a message, these will be passed on to Sayra Mobeen.
Thank you Sayra, our prayers, and support for you and your friends will always be there.
Victims & survivors of terrorism, please come together to ‘speak truth to terror’
Pakistan Terrorism Survivors Network, Islamabad, Pakistan
True Story of a Blast Victim
Student BBA (Honors)
Islamic International University Islamabad
The morning of 20 0ctober 2009 was delightful and astonishing for me not for the country; I was happy to go to classes for my studies and be with my friends. Ignoring the years of unending dilemma of Pakistan facing the threat of terrorism; that every face showed pain did not matter to me.
I am not a keen follower of the news, and that is why I could not feel the pain people faced by being in a bomb blast, or of losing a loved one in a terrorist attack.
The twin blasts in my University that day changed my life, as it was the first strike on women students in Islamabad. This incident left deep effect on my life. Bringing me face to face with a disaster which in its wake brought a lot of challenges for me.
Sadly I am a victim of that incident, and have been lucky to survive to tell my story, and look at life in a different perspective.
I remember that day after classes I came back in my hostel room at about 2:45 pm. My friend Umme Kalsoom came to my room and asked me to accompany her to the cafeteria, so I got up and we left.
We went to the cafeteria fruit shop but they had sold out the fruit etc. I don’t know why we were in hurry that day to go in the café, as we both ignored our class fellows who were sitting outside the café asking us to join them, and entered the main hall of the cafeteria.
We bought salad and some other eatables and sat inside the café on the left side of the hall, we still did not join our friends outside! We realized that we had not bought soft drinks so I went and bought these.
As I reached near the fountain in the hall, on my way back to our table, I suddenly heard a dreadful sound, and saw lots of smoke; my ears were deafened. I felt as if I had been hit by something forcefully. I was disoriented and fell down. The pain made me realize I was hurt and I could feel the pain on my body, arms, legs, forehead and chest. Later I found that the major injuries I received were on my chest.
Humble thanks to Almighty Allah that I was in my senses and tried to walk away from the cafeteria to save myself, but could not. I then saw my friends coming back to look for me; my shirt was full of blood which was coming from the wounds on my head and chest; when Umme Kulsoom she saw me in this critical condition she started crying.
I asked Umme Kulsoom to look for my cell phone which I lost in this melee so I could call my family, she asked a female employee of café to look after me while she went to look for help.
I was feeling afraid because of the blast not for the pain or my injuries. The café staff told me I had severe injuries so I should go to the hospital, and tried to put me in a taxi, I refused because I did not want to go alone by taxi. The staff then left me and walked away, which hurt me more. I missed my family and friends and started to cry.
In the meanwhile my friends came looking for me, and picked me up, I was in great pain, and they took me to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences. The doctors decided to undertake surgery because of the nature of my injuries. I was very afraid because I knew my family was not with me, and I did not know what would be the result of the operation. But that is perhaps what saved my life.
After initial treatment in the PIMS and in view of the nature of my injuries, I was sent to the Combined Military Hospital at Mangla Cantonment for treatment. I underwent treatment at Mangla and suffered lots of pain and surgical interventions, for approximately four months. During this period my family and I suffered a lot, as they had to arrange for a place to live at Mangla, and commute from Abbottabad to Mangla regularly.
My injuries were similar to the injuries that soldiers receive in the battle field. The doctors at Mangla took great pains to remove the pieces of shrapnel and other stuff in my body, but even then, they could not remove all, and some non-life-threatening pieces of the material that was used in the suicide jacket, are still in my body and will remain in me for my life. It hurts at times, but at least I am alive.
As I said I did not pay attention to news of bomb blasts when I saw it on television or read about this in the newspapers, therefore I could not assess the pain of others; especially those who suffered during terrorist or suicide attacks.
Since my ordeal, I can recognize the pain and difficulties of survivors and victims’ like me, and Alhamdolillah I can empathize with them and help them in their recovery from trauma.
This unpleasant incident did not close the door of life on me; it showed me the other and pleasant direction of life. I am happy, and grateful to Allah that I am passing my life normally, thanks to my family, friends, and many other people who helped me recover, and this has strengthened my belief in the saying that “obstacles come in life to polish one, or make one like a diamond.”