Tuba Sahaab looks nothing like a warrior. She is a slight girl of 11, living in a simple home in a suburb of Islamabad. But in Tuba’s case, looks are deceiving.
With her pen, Tuba is taking on the swords of the Taliban. She crafts poems telling of the pain and suffering of children just like her; girls banned from school, their books burned, as the hard-core Islamic militants spread their reign of terror across parts of Pakistan. A stanza of one of her poems reads: “Tiny drops of tears, their faces like angels, Washed with blood, they sleep forever with anger.” Tuba is not afraid to express her views. Of the Taliban forcing young girls out of the classroom, she says: “This is very shocking to hear that girls can’t go to school, they are taking us back to the Stone Age.” Less than two hours from Tuba’s home, the Taliban have control. The one-time holiday destination of the Swat Valley is now a no-go zone. Curfews are in place at all times. Militants kill with impunity. Human rights activists and people on the ground in Swat Valley speak of a place called “slaughter square” where the Taliban leave the bodies of their victims with notes saying “do not remove for 24 hours.” No one touches the corpses out of fear of reprisals. Watch Tuba recite her poetry »
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Tuba Sahaab refuses to be silent. As young as she is, she is wise and brave beyond her years. The young school girl is reaching a bigger audience, regularly appearing in the media. On the day we spend with her, Tuba and her mother appear on a talk radio program. Back home, she tells me how she would give her life for her country. “I want to give peace to my nation,” she says, “I will fight for it.” And Tuba has an inspiration: U.S. President Barack Obama. She prayed for his elections, she says. She sees in him the hope of peace in her own country. Tuba Sahaab has a dream to meet her hero. She can hardly contain her excitement. “I want to go the White Palace and show him my poems, show him what is happening and ask him to come to Pakistan and control it because he is a super power.” Meeting and listening to Tuba Sahaab, it is easy to forget she is still a young girl. In her playground at school, Tuba dances and laughs with her friends. She loves writing her short stories (she has already published one book) and shows me a cartoon character she has created called “Tomato Man.” Tuba’s parents are proud of their daughter. They say they are not afraid even as she speaks out so publicly against the Taliban. Tuba is their only child but as her mother tells me, she is “worth more than seven sons and seven daughters.” And Tuba has the dreams of any young child. She tells me she wants to be an astronaut and then one day lead her country. “I will do anything, if my life goes I don’t worry, I just want to do something.” “I think you will get the chance,” I say.
“Yes, if someone gives me the chance you will see what I can do.” Of that, I have no doubt.