October 2022Opinion2022

Gun Violence and its Victims: The Story of Sabika Aziz

Eman Fatima
Staff Writer

Gun control in the U.S has long been a heated political issue at the center of multiple controversies in the country. Guns have taken the lives of multiple innocent students in schools, and now the effects are reaching beyond Americans. In the United States, controversial gun policies led to the death of a 17-year-old Pakistani youth ambassador, who came to the U.S. hoping to change American views on Islam and her. 

Sabika Aziz came to Texas through the State Department’s Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program, known as YES. According to The New York Times, the YES program brought about 900 students from different countries worldwide to attend high schools across the American states. The purpose of the program was to share the positive side of the U.S., including the diversity and security that attracted Sabika. Importantly, school shootings were not what these students or their families were expecting. According to the Washington Post, Shaheera Jalil Albasit, Sabika Aziz’s cousin who encouraged her to apply to the program, was unaware of the risk, saying, “I did not know what I would be sending her off to. Nor did Sabika’s parents when they made the taxing decision to send her off on a journey as Pakistan’s student cultural ambassador.” 

Immigrants like Sabika Aziz and their families possess an idealistic view of the U.S. as do many people around the world. Just months after Aziz’s departure to the U.S., her family learned the hard way that their daughter had died, and that America is not the ideal country they imagined. Instead, it failed to protect their child. More appalling are the occurrences of school shootings committed by students that are more common in the U.S., a relatively developed country, than in Pakistan. According to the New York Times, Sabika’s friend echoed this sentiment, asking, “How a young student could both acquire such guns and smuggle them so easily into school, even in Pakistan, where gun laws are lax? Even if someone attacks a school, it’s someone from the outside.”

Somehow, an underdeveloped country like Pakistan has better gun regulations than an influential world power. Parents from countries like Pakistan send their children to the U.S. to achieve the American dream of better education and economic opportunity, and yet parents in the U.S. fear sending their own kids to school because of gun violence. 

America’s refusal to implement gun control took away the life of this international student in 2018. Four years have passed since Sabika’s parents lost their child, a country lost its citizen, and a dream lost its dreamer. Even after these four years, the incidence of mass shootings has not decreased. The Ground Report indicates that there were 693 mass shootings in 2021 and 140 in 2022. America’s gun death rate is twenty-six times that of other high-income countries, according to Everytown Research & Policy

It has taken decades and thousands of victims for the U.S. to implement any serious progressive measures toward gun control. On June 23, 2022, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which requires gun sellers to run background checks, was passed in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 65 to 33 and signed into law by President Biden on June 25. 

Regardless of this progress, Sabika’s story is not the only example of international students becoming victims of American gun culture. Two educators share their concern for their international students in University World News, explaining that “many parents and, increasingly, students, are asking themselves, in some countries more than others. What kind of society and situation are we sending students to? What if, God forbid, they were to become victims of the U.S.’s never-ending orgy of gun violence?”

Image Courtesy of Jay Baker, Flickr

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