Is Malala Safe? An Update on the Young Heroine of Pakistan

5 years ago

I promised I would give you an update on Malala Yousufzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot and nearly killed by the Pakistan Taliban because she dared to defy them and fearlessly advocated for the education of girls.

She is moving her hands and legs, but she is still in critical condition.

On Monday Malala was airlifted to a military hospital in Birmingham, England, which specializes in treating gunshot victims. But offers to provide medical care for Malala poured in from around the world. One such offer came from former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband astronaut Mark Kelly, who lined up a neurosurgeon and a flight to bring the young teenager to the United States. In the end Malala was sent to Britain not only because of its excellent medical care but because of the country’s close ties to Pakistan.

Since the attempt to assassinate Malala, there have been prayer vigils for her throughout Pakistan. The tiny girl who received the country’s first national peace award has become a potent symbol of courage and hope. And yet even as Malala lay unconscious on a hospital gurney, fighting for her life, she had to be flown out of the country in extreme secrecy. Despite outrage in Pakistan over her attack, the Taliban have shown not a shred of regret. On the contrary. Shortly after they failed to take her out, they brazenly vowed to try to kill her again.

Here is what Ehsanullah Ehsan, the “spokesman” for the Pakistan Taliban, said:

“Any female that, by any means, plays a role in the way against the mujahedeen should be killed.”

And is she safe? What about the other two girls who were wounded in the horrific attack along with her? They’re still in Pakistan. Just now I read an alarming story about two visitors who tried to see Malala yesterday in the hospital, claiming to be her relatives. Police questioned them, but we don’t yet know who they were or if they were arrested.

I am elated that the world has rallied around Malala, and condemned the despicable attack on her by the Taliban. But as the young brave teenager knew better than anyone, millions of girls in Pakistan still face a culture and society that has allowed such gender hatred to flourish. I know many of you want to do something to help advance the rights of girls in this region so they have a chance at a real future. So they can live in peace and fulfill their dreams. Just like your daughter. Or mine.

It’s an issue Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of Amnesty International, is urging us to think especially about tonight and in the crucial days ahead. As she wrote in a hard-hitting post on CNN:

Here is a question for Tuesday's presidential debate: Will Malala's shooting prompt concrete steps to prevent more of such attacks, which potentially affect tens of thousands of girls and women--and could seal the fate of an entire region?

Credit Image: © Sajjad/Xinhua/

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