Her phone rang at 9 p.m. “Can you come tonight? He’s home.” The voice was anxious. “My son left those extremists he took up with, but maybe just for the night.”
Mossarat Qadeem, a peace activist in Pakistan, considered the dangerous four-hour drive through checkpoints and dark mountain roads into the northern region of the country. “I’ll be with you for breakfast,” she said. “Try to keep him home until morning.”
At 4 a.m., before first light, Qadeem was driving north from Islamabad, through rough rural roads into an area so dangerous that U.N. workers and U.S. soldiers are prohibited from entering. Her goal: to save a boy’s future.
Qadeem is fighting extremism in Pakistan one child at a time, meeting with mothers and their children to discuss the dangers of radical groups. To do so, she left academia several years ago, giving up 13 years of political-science teaching at the University of Peshawar, and focused on gaining the trust of mothers living on the front lines of extremist recruitment. She now runs an aid group called Painam, or “Promise,” to talk with kids and steer them into jobs and away from the false promises of radicals in the Taliban and other groups.