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From Tragedy to Triumph - the story of Ahmad Nawaz

On 16th December 2014, Ahmad Nawaz’s school, Army Public School was attacked by a group of Taliban gunmen. They massacred 151 people, mostly children, including Ahmad’s younger brother Haris. Having witnessed his brother murdered right in front of his eyes, Ahmad had no choice but to play dead to survive for he knew he was next.


Ahmad survived at the cost of getting shot in the arm to the extent where it looked as if his arm would have to be amputated. For this reason he was flown to the UK for treatment. His time in hospital gave him the opportunity to reflect. ‘I used to think “why did this attack even happen? Why would anyone attack children in schools?”’ says Ahmad. ‘And then I realized that the terrorists want to stop us from educating ourselves so we can be easily brainwashed.’ Having lived through a traumatic experience at the hands of terrorists, Ahmad was determined to change the narrative and ensure students do not join such groups.


"If I can inspire just one student and change the way they think, that is a success for me." Ahmad attended Debate Academy in 2017 and enjoyed discussing issues not typically covered in the school curriculum. He is also keen to encourage others to speak up about their experiences. ‘Someone asked me how they could get the courage to speak out,’ he says. ‘I responded that speaking out isn’t difficult; you just have to speak from your heart. If every one of us speaks out about what we think is wrong in our society, we can change it.’ Ahmad then fought his way through his past to a bright future ahead where he became President of Oxford Union.


Through leadership at one of the world's foremost debating societies, Ahmad not only triumphed over personal trauma but also demonstrated a commitment to intellectual discourse and positive change. The narrative of his life stands as a beacon of inspiration, proving that even in the face of unthinkable challenges, one can rise to extraordinary heights.





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Ahmad Nawaz's story is truly inspiring and shows incredible resilience in the face of unimaginable tragedy. His courage to overcome such a traumatic event and turn it into a driving force for positive change is commendable. Ahmad's determination to use education as a tool against extremism is a powerful message. Becoming the President of the Oxford Union is not only a personal triumph but also a symbol of his commitment to intellectual discourse and making a difference. His journey serves as a beacon of inspiration, proving that even in the darkest moments, individuals can rise to extraordinary heights and contribute positively to the world.

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Saghaam Fatima
Saghaam Fatima
Dec 01, 2023

The story of Ahmad Nawaz's horrific encounter with the Taliban and his subsequent rise to the position of Oxford Union President serves as a tribute to fortitude and the will to bring about constructive change. It is admirable that he is so committed to changing this story and keeping children from becoming radicalised. Reading this made me realise that, while we frequently complain about about how challenging life is and how much work there is in school, this is nothing more than ungrateful behaviour. In contrast, children who experience trauma and yet decide to participate in thoughtful discussions and make a commitment to promoting change in the educational system are real heroes.


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Ahmad Nawaz's resilience in the face of the 2014 Taliban attack on Army Public School is nothing short of extraordinary. Losing his brother in the massacre, and playing dead just to survive and later realizing the attackers aimed to hinder education and manipulate young minds. Ahmad's determination to change this narrative, inspiring students to resist extremism, raises the question: Can one person truly make a difference? His journey from trauma to becoming the President of the Oxford Union is a testament to his strength. His life stands as a beacon of inspiration, challenging the notion that individuals are defined by their traumas. Can one person's story truly make a difference in the world? Ahmad Nawaz emphatically answers in the affirmative.…

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To answer your question, I definitely think one person's story can truly make a difference in the world. Personalities like Malala Yousafzai, Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi have all made significant contributions to the world through their actions. Their stories serve as a reminder that the actions of a single person can create a ripple effect, influencing others and sparking meaningful change. Similarly, Ahmad Nawaz's commitment to challenging extremism and promoting education not only contributes to countering violence but also serves as an inspiration for others to follow. By sharing his story, he amplifies the potential for positive change and encourages individuals to believe in their capacity to make a difference, no matter the challenges they face.


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Given Ahmad Nawaz's inspiring journey from surviving a horrific terrorist attack to becoming the President of the Oxford Union, how might the resilience and dedication to positive change demonstrated by individuals like him act as a driving force for transforming societies grappling with conflict and violence?

What do you think?

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I think it can act as a driving force by fostering empathy and understanding among communities once they share their personal stories of resilience and dedication. The ripple effect of such stories can lead to increased compassion, reduced stigmatization, and a greater willingness to address the underlying issues that contribute to conflict. I also think that not just empathy but individuals like Ahmad are a beacon of hope. He along with other survivors is real example of the possibility of significant positive development even in the midst of sorrow. Their tales encourage people to face hardship head-on with fortitude and determination, opening the door for revolutionary changes in cultures that are struggling with violence and war. The idea that you…

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