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Page last updated at 18:43 GMT, Monday, 11 May 2009 19:43 UK

'Everything destroyed' in Swat valley

Makeshift school for boys at a refugee camp in Swabi
Camps funded by NGOs and the UN are housing thousands of people

Tens of thousands of people have been fleeing the fighting between the Pakistani army and the Taleban in the Swat district.

According to the UN, there are more than 300,000 people registered as displaced and the Pakistani government says it expects that figure to reach one million.

Here are the stories of three internally displaced people who were forced to leave everything behind and start a new life full of uncertainties.

FARHAN, 23, STUDENT, NOW IN ISLAMABAD

We left Mingora three days ago. The situation had become very dangerous. We were caught up in the brutalities between the Pakistani army and the Taleban.

We were trapped inside our homes for a week, while there was constant shelling. A mortar demolished a house just a few yards from our home.

There was no water, no power, everything was destroyed.

Swat is empty now and we don't want to go back ever

To add to that, the Taleban threatened to kill young people if they didn't join them in their so-called 'jihad'. There have been personal threats to our family too, as my father is an outspoken critic of the Taleban.

We had to leave. We left everything we had and went on foot to Malakand. There was no transport available. We were walking with thousands of people.

It was a difficult journey. There was no food or water, but most importantly we were going through a war zone and we were scared that we'd encounter Taleban militants.

Once in Malakand we hired a truck and drove to Islamabad. We are relatively safe here but I don't know for how long.

We left everything and now we are with empty hands trying to start our lives again.

We are trying to leave the country. Swat is empty now and we don't want to go back ever.


MAJID, 24, STUDENT, NOW IN PESHAWAR

We fled Mingora last Friday, together with much of the population of the city. Our life had become very difficult: we were trapped in curfews, electricity was cut, there was no water or food.

A makeshift school for girls in a refugee camp in Swabi
School lessons have resumed for these girls at a refugee camp in Swabi
In the early hours on Friday morning we were under attack from gunship helicopters. Later the army told us we had to leave Mingora.

We got up, put clothes on and rushed out of the door. We didn't have time to pack anything. We didn't even prepare food for the journey. We just shut the door and left.

People were running, everyone was so scared. We didn't know what was going to happen next.

I feel depressed. Swat has been brought back to the Stone Age. There's no life there any more

We decided to go to Peshawar. The first part of our journey was on foot, until we reached Malakand. The road was packed with people, thousands of them. My grandfather is old, he couldn't walk for long and needed regular breaks. And it was a hot day.

Then we hired a truck and drove to Peshawar. Many people stayed behind, as not everyone could afford to hire a vehicle.

I am staying at a university hostel with friends. My family is at some relatives' house. Many joined refugee camps, but those must be full, because I see lots of people lying on the roads, people for whom there's no accommodation or help.

The nearby park is full of people from Swat. There are Swat people all over the city, everyone with their own story.

Everyone is deeply disturbed by this experience. We left everything and our life here is uncertain.

I am thinking of leaving the country to study abroad. My dad says that he'll try to set up his own business and open a shop in Peshawar.

I feel depressed. Swat has been brought back to the Stone Age. Each and every individual has left. There's no life there any more. I am not hopeful that things will get better any time soon - they can't clear this mess up in a hundred years.


GHALIB GUL, TEACHER, NOW AT A CAMP IN SWABI

From the BBC's Urdu service

I am from the Damghar area in Buner. There was no school in our area so I decided to start a school. At first we had only 28 children but with time the number rose to 90.

Teacher from Swat
Ghalib: I hope to be able to restart my school one day

That was four years ago. One day, the Taleban arrived in my village. They threatened to kill me if I didn't close it down. I informed the other villagers that it was not possible for me to continue to run the school. That's how it ended.

I feel very sorry, because the kids were so bright.

A day after the school was closed, the army started the operation against the Taleban. My son Muaz did not have any food for three days and kept on asking why these planes were bombing us. I told him that they were killing the Taleban.

The Taleban is to blame for this situation more than the government. It is true that the government forced us to leave the area, but at the same time it is providing relief for us. When we suffer from the Taleban, they never help us.

I would like to be able to go back and restart my school but I don't have any hope that the army operation will end any time soon.


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