Last week on October 9th, when Malala Yousafzai was returning home from school on her school bus in Pakistan, masked gunman boarded the bus, shouted for her to reveal herself, and proceeded to shoot her in the head and neck. She is now in a critical care unit in Great Britain and is said to be in a stable condition.
Why would the violent Islamic extremist group, know as the Taliban, target one single teenage girl? What could have demanded their attention to this degree? Why do they feel so threatened by a young girl?
Malala’s transgressions against the Taliban were simply this: openly advocating for a girls right to attend school and receive an education.
Here is brief timeline of Malala’s fight for education:
January 2009: Malala began writing an anonymous blog for BBC in which she recounts the Taliban practicing full control over her home in Swat Valley, and the forcing shut and blowing up of hundreds of girl’s schools.
March 2009: Malala went against Taliban law and continued to pursue her education, and utilized the media that reached out to her to give education for girls a voice in Pakistan. She and her father participated in a documentary for New York Times called Class Dismissed.
Summer 2009: Malala, age 11, committed to being a politician and not a doctor like she had planned. “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.”
November 2011: Malala was awarded the International Children’s Peace Prize for continuously speaking out for girl’s education. She became more nationally recognized, and both she and her father received multiple death threats from the Taliban if they did not stop speaking out against them. “I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.”
Summer 2012: Taliban spokesperson said they are “forced” to act, and the leaders unanimously agreed to kill Malala
October 9, 2012: The assassination attempt of Malala
It is an utterly tragic chain of events, and it’s sickening to think that this is the extent to which some will go to keep women from their basic right to education. But Malala has ignited a fire. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this week, Malala is "very brave in standing up for the rights of girls" and that the attackers had been "threatened by that kind of empowerment." The assassination attempt of this teenage girl has sparked worldwide sympathy and outrage. On October 15th the United Nations launched a petition using the slogan "I am Malala", demanding we call on international organizations to end gender discrimination and ensure the world's 61 million out-of-school children are in education by the end of 2015.
By advocating for educational rights for women, Malala has turned a small problem for the Taliban leaders into a much bigger one. And if you don’t believe me, you can ask Malala’s former classmate:
“Every girl in Swat is Malala. We will educate ourselves. We will win. They can't defeat us.” -Marina
*As of this morning it was reported that Malala is now able to stand with help, and is communicating by writing. Though not out of the woods yet, this is tremendous progress for an incredibly brave young woman.
More info here:
Pakistani Schoolgirl Shot by Taliban Is Showing Progress, NY Times
Her ‘Crime’ Was Loving Schools, NY Times
Malala Has Won, NY Times
Malala Yousafzai will 'inspire a new generation', BBC
A 14-year-old Pakistani girl's brave fight against the Taliban: A timeline, The Week
Photos provided by Vanderbilt Political Review, Mogul