On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, Malala Yousafzai – the lovely little 14-year-old Pashtun Peace Activist and promoter of girls’ education from Swat – was shot. And not only once, but twice: once in the head and the second time in the neck, while she was on her way back from school in Swat’s main town of Mingora. Very fortunately, though, the shots were not life-threatening and it is reported by her uncle that she would survive. Alongside her, two more girls were injured, though there is not enough detail about them and whether their gunshot wounds were life-threatening or not. I guess only time will tell as we all wait anxiously to hear more about this staggering news.
In case some of my readers are wondering about Malala Yousafzai and who she is exactly, she actually rose to international fame in 2009 – at only 11 years old – when she wrote bold poems and kept a blog/diary for BBC (Urdu), depicting in detail her life, while living under the Taliban militants who’d taken control of Swat during that bleak time. Her story was almost similar to that of Anne Frank’s — a brave young Jewish girl who lived in hiding with her family during the Second world war and legibly depicted her life, during those horrible times, in her diary, which was later discovered after her death and published all over the world.
Similarly, in her blog/diary, Malala, too, included stories of her life under the Taliban. She wrote about how her classmates had to hide their school books under their paruney (a shawl used by girls/women to cover their bodies and sometimes their faces), in fear of having acid thrown in their faces. And although her blog was anonymous (she actually used a pseudonym “Gul Makai”) when it first got published on BBC (Urdu). It wasn’t too long until Malala’s identity was revealed – and out came a bold, confident, articulate little girl whose campaign for girls’ education won her admirers and several peace awards at home and all around the world. She was also the first Pakistani child to be nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize. Hence, Malala has become the sweetheart of our nation – a child who would grow up to bring change; to create a difference. And this was further emphasized when she appeared on national and international television, and spoke of her dream of a future Pakistan where education, especially for women and girls, would prevail.
However, hearing about her shooting has not only left me utterly flabbergasted, but it also forces me to ask the burning question that many Pashtuns especially those who love, admire, and support her and her marvelous work, are wondering: Why? Why has this sweet little innocent girl become the recent victim of violence, which has deeply affected Pashtuns all over the nation? What did she do that was so bad; so horrendous; so licentious that she deserved to be killed? And as I read more into it, the revelations of why she was shot (and almost murdered) made absolutely no sense to me. Rather, it deeply angered and frustrated me at the sheer cowardice and obtuseness of certain individuals, who in this case are none other but members of the Taliban.
Yes, it’s true that she, at only 11 years old, back in 2009, openly and publicly criticized the Taliban; she was the only one who dared to speak out against the Taliban. And it was important that she had her voice heard against a group of tyrants who were not only ruining the lives of women and girls, physically (acid-throwing) and intellectually (banning education), but emotionally as well. And now, it appears, that her attempted murder is being justified by the notion that she is too “pro-West” and here’s a pathetic quote I came across in one of the news articles that explicated just that:
“We wanted to kill her as she was pro-West, she was speaking against Taliban and more important she was calling President Obama as her ideal. She was young but was promoting a Western culture in the Pakhtun populated areas,” Ihsanullah Ihsan, who is the spokesman of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP had said.
As much as the above quote irks me, it has come to my realization that these men are nothing but filthy cowards; they realize Malala’s great potential and how influential she is at only 14 years of age, which is hence instilling hate and fear in them – fear that some day they will lose power to a woman (or women). So they kill. They kill because it’s convenient. And it’s convenient because they can get away with it, and maintain their despicable power and control over the region as well as the lives of women and girls.
I’ve also realized something else — something beyond just the fear of women — and that is the fear of progression. We all know how brave and influential Malala is; how she’s managed to speak up when no one else would. We also know how powerful children can be — how quickly they learn and get inspired. And when more and more young girls learn and get exposed to the bravery of iconic youths like Malala, they, too, will begin to wonder why they’re just sitting at home, when they could go out to discover the world, attain the knowledge that should be available to them, and make something of their selves. Of course, this is not to imply that older women are not influential, for example extremely courageous women like Farida Afridi who was also murdered through gun wounds just a few months ago; for women like Farida are, in fact, very influential. But children like Malala poses a greater threat because she is still a child — a child that knows too much for her own good.
Hence, there is now what I like to call a shift from war on women to war on female children. And according to our Pashtun culture, children are supposed to be obedient; they should listen to their elders; they shouldn’t talk back or talk ill of anyone, otherwise they suffer dire consequences. Yet, here was Malala — a child prodigy, speaking against the Taliban, exposing them for the horrible beasts that they are, and telling the whole world about the atrocities that they were putting the girls under. And this is bothersome to the likes of Talib madmen, because what they deem as normal is abnormal to a child who shouldn’t be allowed to question and shun common norms and beliefs. So, while they claim that they wanted to kill her because she was promoting “western culture” (whatever the heck that means), there is more to this than meets the eye. It’s a war on children and women alike.
However, my greatest fear now that is that she most probably will be targeted again, now that she’s on her way to recovery. These murderers are ruthless barbarians. Their mission in life is to eradicate anything and anyone who becomes a threat to their beliefs; their rules; and worst of all; their authority. They are petrified of women – a gender that is supposed to be “inferior” in every possible way, as well as children (especially female children). They can’t handle the fact that women, like men, are intelligent; capable; out-spoken; can think and act for themselves; and most importantly of all, expose these cowardly men for the smutty goons that they are!
Yet, I hope that Malala will overcome this misfortune that has befallen her and that she will not get discouraged from pissing off these mindless thugs by doing what she does best: working for women and girls; and promoting their education in a world that views women as nothing more than sex slaves, child bearers, and inferior, both intellectually and physically, to men.
Nevertheless, all that’s about to change now. Too bad these hooligans are unaware of what’s about to come their way. They actually believe that by killing someone, it will all stop? That women will suddenly become discouraged from criticizing the wrongs that they are enforcing, and further be discouraged from working towards women’s empowerment and educational development? Well, then they are nothing but fools to think that way. For bullets are weak and it can only stop so much.
So, long live Malala! We are proud of brave young women like you! You are the light to a nation that has been enveloped in darkness for far, far too long! And these madmen may do anything and everything in their power to put out this light — this fiery flame — but they’ll only end up burning themselves.
The author is a PhD Candidate, a visual artist, and the co-founder of Heela Foundation. Her personal blog can be read at sesapzai.wordpress.com. Follow her on Twitter @sesapzai.