— By Alexandra Kinias —
Malala Yousafzadi is a breath of fresh air in an environment polluted with gunpowder and radicalism. She is a spring blossom growing in a field of thorny bushes, only to be injured by their needles. In October 2012, on her way back from school, Malala’s school bus was ambushed by the Taliban. She was shot with one bullet, which went through her head, neck, and ended in her shoulder. The young girl was left to die, together with two of her friends who were also shot on site. She was fifteen years old.
Though Malala was not the first to be assaulted by this terrorist group, yet she was specifically targeted in this tragic attack that was condemned worldwide. Many other girls face the same fate together with their teachers in sporadic attacks around Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan where the Taliban influence dominates. The girls’ only crime was going to school.
Malala’s journey to recover from her brain injuries was remarkable, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The young girl has demonstrated, throughout her life, nothing but strength, resilience and courage.
Growing up in the Swat province in Pakistan, Malala had experienced the Taliban’s rule first hand. A smart young student, in 2009, at the age of 12, she wrote for a BBC blog under a pseudo name about her experience living under the Taliban during the battle of Swat. As the war intensified, her family was dispersed from their hometown and Malala ended up living in a refugee camp for few months. Later that year, after her family reunited at the end of the war, she returned back home only to find that the Taliban had closed the girls’ schools. Inspired by her father’s activism in political life, Malala committed herself to become a politician and an activist for girl’s rights. In the documentary for the NYTimes, Class Dismissed, she explained why she wanted to be involved in the political life, “I have a new dream … I must be a politician to save this country. There are so many crises in our country. I want to remove these crises.”
By the end of 2009, she had received wide international exposure and began to publicly advocate for female education. She brought the world’s attention to the critical situation of girl’s education in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In her speeches, she bravely condemned the rule of the Taliban and demanded the right of girls to go to school. After receiving the National Youth Peace Prize in Pakistan, her name received wider recognition, but that came with a price: her life was on peril. At the age of only 12, Malala was receiving death threats from the Taliban. But in defiance to them, she didn’t deter from the active role and the course of life she had set for herself. As the death threats failed to silence her, the Taliban leaders unanimously agreed to kill her, in a meeting they held in the summer of 2012.
The failed assassination attempt on Malala was justified by the Pakistani Taliban that she was the symbol of the infidels and obscenity, and if she would to survive, the group would target her again. They blamed her father whom they claimed had encouraged her to attack the Taliban in her speeches. According to the Taliban, Malala’s defending her right and the right of girls to go to school was propagation against Islam, but the truth of the matter is that the Taliban view women’s education as a direct threat to them and what they represent. Malala was shot in the head. They wanted to blow her brain out. That’s exactly what the Taliban want; to rob women their right and privilege to think. Taliban fear the education of women. With girl’s education they will lose their control and dominance over them, this control that only thrives with ignorance.
After the recovery from this reprehensible attack, Malala emerged stronger and more resilient than ever. On July 12, 2013, on her sixteenth birthday, she delivered a speech in the UN that was viewed by millions of people worldwide. On the event that was dubbed as Malala Day, she was draped with the shawl of the late Benazir Buhto, the Pakistani politician who was also assassinated by another radical group. Malala captivated the hearts with her speech and received multiple standing ovations as she delivered her powerful statement that incited peace, forgiveness, courage and strength. Her speech to the UN was not just a blow to the terrorists who wanted to silence her, but also a reminder on which side the world is standing. The battle between darkness and light is long and fierce. Even though the weapons of the darkness are more deadly, but as Malala said in her speech, “Pens are mightier than guns.”
The aspiring young woman is setting an example of hope and determination. She is a role model of defiance for all the girls who are battling to go to school under inhumane conditions, and bullets. Malala believes that education is the only hope for a better future and she is determined to fight for every child’s right for education.“So let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.” Malala said.
For more on Malala Yousafzai:
Malal’s Speech at the UN: