In some parts of the world being a girl who wants an education can still be deadly.
Today Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl, was shot in the head by the Taliban. She was on her way home from school when gunmen stopped her bus. Which one is Malala? one of the men reportedly asked the students.
And then they opened fire. A teacher and another girl were also wounded in the attack.
I want to say immediately that Malala is in recovering in a hospital in Peshawar, where she was airlifted by helicopter after she was first treated in Mingora for two gunshot wounds. The first reports were that she had died. Although her wounds are severe, her doctors told Pakistan’s Express Tribune that she is “out of danger.” The bullet that hit her skull came out the other side and didn’t harm her brain. Or at least that’s what we've been told. Another bullet struck her in the neck. There is talk she may be flown to another country for medical treatment.
Yet Malala is far from safe. Despite outrage by many in Pakistan over the brazen attack, Reuters reports that the Taliban have vowed to try to kill her again.
I am sure we are all thinking of our own daughters as we read this. I know I was thinking of mine, and the all-girls’ high school she graduated from two years ago that gave her such a fine education and preparation for life. To think that she could have been killed for wanting to learn and go to school and contribute her knowledge to the world is unfathomable to me. And monstrous. But there it is.
So why would the Taliban single out a 14-year-old girl for murder? Because that is what we are talking about here. Premeditated murder. What could she have possibly done to warrant such hatred?
When the Taliban banned education for girls in Swat, the region where she lives, Malala refused to be intimidated and became an activist. She spoke out against the violence she saw around her and she pressed for peace. For this she became revered in her country. As the New York Times recalls:
Malala became well-known in Pakistan as the author of a blog for the BBC’s Urdu-language Web site, Diary of a Pakistani Schoolgirl, in which she chronicled life under Taliban rule, after the Swat Valley was overrun by the Islamist militants in 2009. “At that time,” she wrote later, “some of us would go to school in plain clothes, not in school uniform, just to pretend we are not students, and we hid our books under our shawls.”
Perhaps her worst crime was believing that she had a right to express herself and a right to her own beliefs. Again, the New York Times:
Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, commonly known as the Pakistani Taliban, told Reuters in a telephone interview that Malala “was pro-West, she was speaking against the Taliban and she was calling President Obama her idol.” He admitted that she was young, but said that “she was promoting Western culture in Pashtun areas,” referring to the ethnic group in northwest Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan whose conservative values the Taliban claims to defend.
I promise to provide updates on Malala's condition. I'm also sending this story to my daughter and all her friends so they can share their outrage over her story and the terrible obstacles young women in Pakistan still face trying to get educated.
Pakistani soldiers carrying Malala Yousufzai after she was attacked. Image: © Ispr/Xinhua/ZUMAPress.com
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