Malala Yousafzai has been transformed in a very short time. From a Youtube sensation she has become a talking point across the world for her bravery and her stand against Taliban extremism in Pakistan, says Shafey Danish of NVONews.Com
Malala Yousufzai is how one would want one’s children to be. In a region not known for its tolerance for women, which has witnessed war and strife for years, she has stood up for women rights and girls education. She is 14 years old.
Malala, born in 1998, comes from the Swat valley town of Mingora. When the Taliban ordered all girl’s school to close in 2009, she started a writing a blog under the pseudonym ‘Gul Makar’ for the BBC, detailing her life under the Taliban and challenges facing girls and women education in the region.
Her ‘diary’ which was published online, is a chronicle of her life and what her peers face under the Tahreek-e-Taliban, the local chapter of the Taliban in the region. In her diary, she repeatedly expresses her desire to return to school, and her sadness as she saw families moving to regions where their daughters could safely attend school. The following summer she was featured in a New York Times documentary even as the Pakistan military intervened to take back the region from the Taliban.
Her father Ziauddin Yousufzai is the spokesperson for the Swat Valley Peace Council, and she herself soon became the chairperson of the District Child Assembly of Swat. Because of her activism she increasingly started featuring in for print and television interviews. Last year she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by Desmond Tutu, and later won Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize. Her growing prominence and advocacy did not go down well with the Taliban, who attempted to assassinate her on the 9th of October 2012. She sustained bullet wounds in her head and neck, after being shot at point blank range as she was returning home from school.
In the days immediately following the attack, she was unconscious and it was doubtful if she would be able to survive. But later when her condition improved, she was flown to UK for extensive care and rehabilitation. Malala’s saga is a grim reminder of the challenges facing communities, especially Muslim communities, of the long road to granting women basic rights that all civilized societies should uphold. The Taliban has long championed a twisted version of Islam that in their view justifies the attack on a 14 year old girl.
While Malala has international support and backing, there are millions of women who face violence, intimidation and oppression in the name of tradition and religion. Only last week afghan police arrested four people for beheading a girl after she refused to be prostituted. Those involved were her on in-laws and her husband.
It was her mother in law who was trying to force her to sleep with another man in the house. After the woman Mah Gul, refused, she was beheaded by the man Najibullah and her mother in law. The police arrested the man, the mother in law, the father in law and the husband. What is chilling is that there would be many who would not have found the courage to stand up to the in-laws, and the violence would go unreported, and unaddressed. On 12th October 50 clerics from Pakistan got together give a fatwa against Malala’s attackers, which is a beginning, but only a beginning.
As Malala recovers in a UK hospital one should bear in mind the challenges that her case represents and swamp that lies beyond the media headlines waiting to be cleared.