Her fearless commitment to her cause—girls’ right to education in the Taliban-infested Swat Valley in Pakistan—has made Malala Yousafzai famous around the world, setting an example of peaceful resistance against a hateful and violent regime. When she was awarded the Pakistani government’s Peace Prize in 2011, her purpose gained public exposure and global attention – making her a thorn in the Taliban’s flesh. If there is one thing the Taliban despise, it is educated women and girls who claim their rights.
Last week, Malala barely survived the attack of a Taliban gunman, who shot her in the head on her way to school. After receiving treatment in a military hospital in Islamabad, Malala was transferred to a hospital in Birmingham to receive further treatment on Monday. However, the hopes for her recovery are accompanied by the fear of yet another attack on her life. According to senior physician David Rosser, alleged relatives attempted to gain access to Malala in the hospital several times.
Her case has received immense international attention, and has resulted in an outpouring not only of sympathy but also new levels of understanding for Malala’s cause and the danger she has been putting herself into, from the grassroots to celebrity voices and the highest political levels. Yesterday, the Daily Beast published an article by Angelina Jolie in which the actress, who has been an advocate for women’s rights for many years, emphasizes the power of education and the imperative for people around the world to stand up and keep on fighting Malala’s battle.
Jolie writes: “As girls across Pakistan stand up to say “I am Malala,” they do not stand alone. Mothers and teachers around the world are telling their children and students about Malala, and encouraging them to be a part of her movement for girls’ education. Across Pakistan, a national movement has emerged to rebuild the schools and recommit to educate all children, including girls. This terrible event marks the beginning of a necessary revolution in girls’ education.”
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the attack on Malala on Tuesday as a crime against humanity. “In our country there are three threats: terrorism, poverty and ignoring the fundamental rights of our daughters.” Meanwhile, the Taliban have defended the attacks, saying that Malala ignored their warnings and left them “no choice”. In an official statement released by the Taliban, the group now says that Malala was not attacked because she had campaigned for education, but because she acted against God's warriors and their war. "The Shariah says that even a child can be killed if it is against Islam."
Although much remains to be done in the fight against violent extremism, Malala is the first step toward a new model of inclusion, public resistance to radical ideologies, and recognition of the vital role women and girls can play in creating a safer world. “Malala is proof that it only takes the voice of one brave person to inspire countless men, women, and children.”
- Lea von Martius
- Lea von Martius