Teacher Torture Behind Pakistani Girls Suicide Bid, Say Relatives

RIYADH, 7 October 2007 — The directors of the Pakistan International School, Riyadh, have announced that the school would bear all medical and ancillary expenses of Safia Asif until she recuperates from her fall.

Nineteen-year-old Safia jumped from a second-story window at the school because of alleged prolonged psychological and physical harassment by one of the teachers. The teenager suffered a fracture of her collarbone, head injuries and bruises. The girl is currently recovering at the Central Shomaisi Hospital here.

“School officials fully sympathize with the family,” said Mohammed Asad, chairman of the PISR Board of Directors, while addressing a press conference here yesterday.

Asad, however, said that an internal investigation has already cleared the teacher in question, Mamoona Ahmed. He, however, refused to elaborate on how the accused teacher was cleared, saying that he “cannot comment more because the case is currently being investigated by the police.”

However, many PISR parents don’t subscribe to the views of the school’s chairman and members.

Imran Ali, who is married to one of Safia’s sisters, said: “It might be a case of cold-blooded murder because Safia was ragged and harassed by Mamoona for three hours in a row, and she was also physically assaulted.”

“Now only Safia can say whether she was pushed from the top floor of the building or she herself jumped down in a fit of depression,” said Ali, who added that the family has not received any “moral or material support”.

Safia has eight sisters and a brother; the family is from Karachi. The girl’s father is a watchmaker. Mamoona fled to Pakistan after the Sept. 30 incident. School officials say she is on vacation, but parents reject this; they claim she went to the hospital on that day and then fled.

Parents also claim that the school’s principal has also fled the country. The PISR is the largest overseas Pakistani school in the Middle East with a cumulative enrollment of over 8,000 students.

Asad denies any high-handed tactic being used by the school management to hush up the case. The BOD chairman, however, singled out the name of Abdul Ghafoor Bhatti, and said that a few parents led by Bhatti are politicizing the whole issue. He said that the school has a record of 19 complaints against Bhatti, ranging from ill behavior to abuse and assaults.

“If the concerned teacher is found guilty by the police in Safia case, the BOD will take appropriate action against the teacher,” assured the chairman, when asked about the outcome of police investigation. Asad also said that “Safia did not attempt to commit suicide, rather she fell down from the stairs of the first floor.”

Safia’s relatives say the girl neither attempted suicide nor fell accidentally.

The blood-tainted spot where Safia was lying unconscious before being shifted to the hospital was shown to the local journalists yesterday.

The school chairman admitted that “the lady teacher Mamoona named in the police case twisted the ears of Safia, but it was simply to discipline her.”

In an attempt to illustrate why the teacher was disciplining the girl, Asad showed letters of apology from Safia and her mothers in incidences in the past where the girl was allegedly caught selling false eyelashes and cosmetics in school.

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