These are the comments of 12-year-old Ali, a survivor of the Peshawar massacre, as recorded by journalist Kiran Nazish, a 2014 Daniel Pearl Fellow, on Dec. 16 at the hospital where the injured child was brought in.
“In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Salam, my name is Ali. I am 12 years old.
We were in between lessons during our first class, when we suddenly heard the sound of shooting. It was a very aggressive noise. We did not have time to even imagine what it could be. Within moments as the noise got closer to our classroom our teacher told us to hide beneath our desks.
“Get under your desk, fast, get under your desk,” she said. Some of us cowered. Some of us stood confused and panicked. The whole classroom started asking our teacher, “What is happening?”
Screaming children from the classrooms next door shocked us. It scared me so much, I could not even scream.
Our teacher was just about to lock the door when three militants stormed in the door.
They were already shooting, and I saw my teacher and class fellows immediately get hurt. Some of my friends started falling down (after being hit). Many of us went under our tables. I knew I was going to die and started crying. Everyone was crying but no one (in my class) tried running away.
They shot my class fellows in the head, in the chest, on their arms, on the legs and in the stomach. Everyone was on the ground. Maybe, they knew many of us were alive. Then they started shooting straight in the skull.
Bullets went over our heads. My best friend and class bench partner Irfan Ullah told me, “Pretend we are dead.” I was shaking with fear. Our seats are in the last row of the classroom.
“Lay still, Ali, Lay still,” he whispered to me. I was turned upside down. Everything happened very fast. I knew it was the terrorist. I knew it was Taliban.
My friend also got hit with bullets. I don’t know which parts of his body but he didn’t speak. I could hear him breath next to me.
One terrorist screamed to the other, “Is that one dead?” and then I heard bullets and more shots. I felt like I was dead.
They spoke in Pashto and were wearing shalwar kameez. All of them had long brown beards.
When they left the room, I whispered to Irfan, but he didn’t respond. I thought he is playing dead. I continued (to play dead).
I was very scared they will come back. I don’t know when my friend died. He saved my life.
I thought I was dead but my heart was beating very fast. I couldn’t move. I played dead for several hours. When the soldiers came to rescue, I could not move and remained still. I did not know if they were real soldiers. And I could not speak. I was very scared. I heard constant noise of bullets outside my class but didn’t have the strength to open my eyes. There was huge explosion. I thought the world will explode today.
When someone picked me up I kept my eyes closed. It was the army soldiers. I started crying. They took me to my parents.
I have come here to the hospital. So many of my schoolmates are here who are short of blood. I am offering my blood for donation.
My parents insisted that we should go home. They are worried about me. They are sad. They are scared. I am scared too. But I am worried about my brothers and sisters who are at the hospital too.
These Taliban are evil.
I can’t believe I am alive. If my country needs me, I am here to offer my life. I will fight these terrorists who killed my friends. I will not forgive them. God is watching.
Kiran Nazish is a journalist who reports on conflict and human rights from the Middle East and South Asia. She has reported for the New York Times, LaStampa, Forbes, the Washington Post and Al-Jazeera. She was hosted by the New York Times during her fellowship this year.