Although described by teachers as an “average student,” the extraordinary bravery of one Pakistani teen has led local officials to rename the high school he once attended in his honor.
Aitzaz Hassan, a ninth grader from Hangu in the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, sacrificed himself to thwart a suicide bombing attempt that reports claim was targeting a morning assembly of approximately 450 students. The attacker, who was disguised in a school uniform, detonated his explosive vest after being tackled by Hassan near the school’s main gate.
“My son made his mother cry, but saved hundreds of mothers from crying for their children,” Mujahid Ali, Hassan’s father, told The Express Tribune.
“I had never thought that my brother would die such a great death,” added Hussan’s older brother, Mujtaba. “He sacrificed his life to save humanity.”
Using the Urdu word for martyr, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that “Shaheed Aitizaz’s brave act saved the lives of hundreds of students.” Sharif recommended the 15-year-old hero for Pakistan’s highest civilian award – the Sitara-e-Shujat (Star of Bravery).
Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban for speaking out about equal access to education, received the same honor in 2012.
Amjad Afridi, a senior adviser to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, told AFP that Hassan’s school would be named after him.
“We will also construct a sports stadium in Hangu and will name it after Hassan,” Afridi said, adding that the government would donate $47,000 to the teen’s bereaved parents.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a terrorist organization that targets Shia Muslims, claimed responsibility for the attack. According to CNN, Hangu – which borders Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas – is a hotbed of sectarian violence. Some militant groups view Shia Muslims as heretics.
Hassan, who had arrived late to school on January 6, was barred from attending the morning assembly as punishment for his tardiness. While waiting outside of the school’s front gate, Hassan became suspicious of the bomber, who authorities claim was between 20 and 25 years old. One student allegedly spotted a detonator, leading Hassan to confront the stranger after telling his friends “I’m going to stop him.”
Both Hassan and the attacker died at the scene, but none of the school’s 2,000 students were harmed.