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Archive for October 12th, 2009

Adam Ellick doc: Swat in the aftermath of the offensive

Adam Ellick doc: Swat in the aftermath of the offensive

Yesterday, the NY Times posted a documentary by journalist Adam Ellick that chronicled the journey of a family who were displaced from their home in Mingora following the military offensive in Swat Valley, [click here to see Part I of the film, “Class Dismissed,” released back in February]. The short film, entitled, “A Schoolgirl’s Odyssey,” follows Ziaudin Yousafzai, owner of a girl’s school in Mingora that was closed by the Taliban in January and his daughter Malala, who were given three hours to flee their homes when the offensive began. Ziaudin, who lived in Peshawar for three months during the displacement, “fought for Swat” by scheduling press conferences and protests to pressure the government to take the area back from the Taliban. Ziaudin told Ellick, “A mother won’t give her child milk unless it cries…You have to scream for everything.”

Meanwhile, Malala, her two brothers and her mother lived in four cities in two months, residing with different host families during the offensive. Although she told Ellick in February that she wanted to be a doctor, her time as an IDP changed her mind. “I thought I must be a politician to serve this country…I want to remove the crises…”

Perhaps the most significant part of the documentary was the family’s return home to Mingora, after three months away. Upon their return, Ellick narrated, “Swat doesn’t look like home,” noting the Taliban corpses rotting in the sun. Ziaudin’s school was infiltrated by the Army, who used the building as a bunker during the offensive. Malala commented, “I was very proud of the Army that they protect us but when I see my school in this way I am very shameful.” The military also left a letter for Ziaudin, blaming citizens like him for allowing the Taliban to control Swat, noting, “We have lost many lives…and that is due to your negligence.”

In the last frame of the film, Ellick wrote that sporadic murders and bombings still occur in Mingora, and the Taliban “are still present in the Swat countryside.” With the South Waziristan offensive about to begin, “A Schoolgirl’s Odyssey” shows how endless the war appears to be, and the impact it has on everyone – from families living in the villages to the soldiers sacrificing their lives on the front lines.

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