Shot six times during the APS attack, Waleed Khan avenges his martyred schoolfellows by campaigning against radicalism
PESHAWAR:A brush with death would be more than enough for most to find a new lease on life. But it takes on a different kind of gravity when those you hold dear don’t make it through the life-altering tragedy you’ve been subjected to.
It has been six years since Waleed Khan was shot in the face six times by brutal terrorists. He was only 12.
Still, Waleed would count himself lucky. A survivor of the grisly attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, the now 18-year-old is on mission to make the most out of his future, both for his sake and his friends’ sake.
“Not a day has passed in those six years that I have not missed my friends, our martyrs,” Waleed said in a video message he posted to commemorate the December 16 tragedy. “Everyone who was hurt in this attack… everyone who was martyred… they and their families have displayed the utmost courage.”
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Waleed recalled the hours and days that followed the attack as something of a blur. “I was bleeding profusely and that made me pass out. I remained unconscious for eight days,” he said. “When I did regain consciousness, my injuries … the bandages my face was covered in… made it very difficult for anyone to identify me.”
While he recovered, his parents were going through another painful ordeal trying to find him. “My father tells me he was so frantic in his search that he kept tripping and falling,” the teenager said. “Just when he thought he had failed, a doctor pointed him towards me. But the state I was in, my own father was unable to recognise me.”
It was only when Waleed’s mother called him that he and his parents were finally reunited. “She was calling me by my pet name. They recognised me after I acknowledged.”
The severity of his injuries meant he had to be taken the United Kingdom for specialist medical care and treatment. The brave youth would end up staying in a hospital for two years and undergo as many as 12 different surgeries, including six to reconstruct his face.
It was during his stay in the UK that Waleed recognised the value of his ordeal. “I began to realise the impact my story could have on others and so, I began speaking to other young students,” he said.
Armed with crystal-clear focus, Waleed has gone on to become a leading advocate on the importance of education and the perils of radicalisation. A member of the UK Youth Parliament and a #iwill ambassador, he has delivered speeches to more than 1,500 young people in schools and universities across his adopted second home.
“My schoolfellows at APS and I were attacked by the enemies of knowledge. But if they think we will retreat, they are wrong.” Waleed said. “We will answer them with the pen and with education, and we will make sure that the blood of our beloved martyrs will never be in vain.”
“Only through education can we defeat and take revenge against those who stole the lives of those so dear to us. Only education can vanquish the ideology of terrorism,” he added.