TERRORIST STRIKES HIT HOME

I talked to University of Iowa students and school officials from Pakistan to get their reactions, after terrorist had attacked the Punjab province, the most populous in Pakistan, and killed at least 67 people and injured another 300. Full story here: The Daily Iowan

By Cindy Garcia and Anis Shakirah Mohd Muslimin

Shehroze Farooqi woke up on Sunday and called his family in Lahore, Pakistan, to make sure they were still alive.

On the heels of terrorist attacks that left 28 victims dead in the Belgian city of Brussels, two more attacks struck Pakistan and Iraq over the weekend.

In Punjab province, the most populous in Pakistan, at least 67 people were killed and 300 injured on Sunday in the city of Lahore with attacks claimed by a Pakistani Taliban group. The group claimed it deliberately targeted Christians.

Farooqui, a University of Iowa first-year doctoral computer science student, said it is disturbing to be so far away while tragedies unfold.

“Actually, it is quite different from when you are there,” he said. “I think this situation makes it very tricky for us because we are so far from home.”

Zubair Shafiq, a UI assistant professor of computer science originally from the Punjab province, said he learned about the attacks through social media when he woke up on Sunday. He said he was immediately worried about his family and those of UI Pakistani students.

“A lot of people were shocked, actually over the last year or so, things have started to be more peaceful in Pakistan, but again this event shocked most of the people in Pakistan, mainly because this particular attack targeted mostly children and women,” he said.

Shafiq said he is not aware of any Pakistani student whose immediate family was directly affected by Sunday’s attacks. However, the Iowa City Pakistani community and students at the UI are trying to set up blood donations for families who have been injured and affected.

“Pakistan has been one of the major war allies against terrorism, and Pakistani people have been affected the most,” he said. “Pakistan has lost more than 10,000 civilians to suicide bombers and these attacks in the last 10 years since the U.S. attacked the Taliban.”

Talal Riaz, the president of the UI Pakistani Student Association, said once people see so many attacks, they become desensitized and numb to everything bad that happens.

“I think the biggest battle we have right now is the ideological battle,” he said. “I think there needs to be a ideological battle in our schools and in our homes to actually stop this from happening.” 

Additionally, a suicide bomber killed at least 25 people and wounded 90 more during an Iraqi soccer game on March 25 in the city of Iskandariya, Iraq, which is around 30 miles south of Baghdad. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

UI graduate student Hayder Alalwan, who is from Baghdad said he felt a mixture of anger and sadness when he learned about the terrorist attacks in Iraq.

“Even if I live in the United States, all my family and friends are in Iraq, and I feel worried about them,” he wrote in an email. “When ISIS invaded the north cities of Iraq, my father volunteered to fight against ISIS and support the Iraqi army and security forces.”

His father, previously a teacher for 30 years, volunteered to serve Iraq at 78 years old but was placed in the reserve forces due to his age.

Alalwan said he does not plan to return home anytime soon because he worries over visa renewals to enter the United States, but he tries to spread awareness on the difference between ISIS and Islam through Imam Mahdi, a UI student organization.

“I am trying to explain that it’s important that people are not tricked into thinking that the terrorist groups represent Muslims or Islam by any stretch of the imagination,” he wrote.

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