I cannot imagine what it would be like to write about my ideas and risk my life at the same time. As some of you might have heard by now, an assassination attempt was made on 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai for writing about young girls and education (or lack thereof) in Pakistan. On Tuesday Malala was approached by a member of the Taliban who asked her name and then shot her in the head and neck. Although horrifying, the act was not entirely surprising as young Malala had been a target for some time, having gained popularity as a feminist blogger of sorts, something members of the Taliban found abominable. Watch the video above then click inside to learn more about this young girl’s bravery, and to read some of her writings.
HelloGiggles reported the story:
Yesterday in Pakistan, 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck by a member of the Taliban while she was sitting on her school bus. Two others were also injured in the shooting.
Malala wasn’t shot randomly, though. The Taliban specifically targeted her because she is famous in Pakistan as a feminist blogger. In 2009, she wrote under the pseudonym Gul Makai (or “Face like a Flower”) about her fears about the Taliban’s attempted crackdowns on education and civil liberties for BBC Urdu’s blogs. (You can check out some of her writing here). Once identified, she was praised by Pakistan’s Prime Minister for speaking so eloquently and honestly on behalf of women’s rights and was awarded Pakistan’s very first Peace Prize.
Her work didn’t just attract admirers, however, but also enemies.
According to the Taliban’s spokesperson – who confirmed that the group was responsible for the shooting – Malala was targeted on their hit lists because in his (translated) words, “She was pro-West, she was speaking against the Taliban and she was calling President Obama her ideal leader… She was young but she was promoting Western culture in Pashtun areas.”
Essentially, her “crime” was having a differing opinion and voicing it on the internet.
Read more here.
It’s so easy to read this story as another horrible thing that happened ‘over there’ in one of those countries where women are often denied proper education. It’s just as easy to see Malala as just another child who suffered an unfortunate incident in another country we know only under abstract circumstances. But, in this moment, she’s not other. She’s fourteen. And she likes going to school. And she liked writing about how much she likes going to school, and about how complicated that single act is in her country. That her country is ‘over there’ is irrelevant. We all live together here, and we all can– at any time– assume responsibility for the actions of people the world over. That is to say, their problems are our problems, if we choose to see it that way.
What I like about the piece in HelloGiggles is that the writer went on to acknowledge the fact that even in the land of the free, we attack each other for promoting different beliefs all of the time, especially when those beliefs concern women. Although most of these attacks compare in no way to what actually happened to Malala, few of us have mastered the art of respecting other beliefs. Hell, I’m scared of saying the ‘wrong’ thing when I write about what it means to be a woman, but I’m not scared for my life. If I were, I can’t imagine what would push me to keep writing, as Malala did.
Here are some pieces that she wrote for the BBC, titled Diary of a Pakistani Girl. It begins with an introduction from the BBC:
Private schools in Pakistan’s troubled north-western Swat district have been ordered to close in a Taleban edict banning girls’ education. Militants seeking to impose their austere interpretation of Sharia law have destroyed about 150 schools in the past year. Five more were blown up despite a government pledge to safeguard education, it was reported on Monday. Here a seventh grade schoolgirl from Swat chronicles how the ban has affected her and her classmates. The diary first appeared on BBC Urdu online.
The night was filled with the noise of artillery fire and I woke up three times. But since there was no school I got up later at 10 am. Afterwards, my friend came over and we discussed our homework.
Today is 15 January, the last day before the Taleban’s edict comes into effect, and my friend was discussing homework as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
Today, I also read the diary written for the BBC (in Urdu) and published in the newspaper. My mother liked my pen name ‘Gul Makai’ and said to my father ‘why not change her name to Gul Makai?’ I also like the name because my real name means ‘grief stricken’.
My father said that some days ago someone brought the printout of this diary saying how wonderful it was. My father said that he smiled but could not even say that it was written by his daughter.
You can read more of Malala‘s writing here.
According to the New York Times, there is serious outrage in Pakistan over this news. And there’s outrage here in America. I’m hoping all this ‘outrage’ turns into something more tangible, like real conversation and real change the world over. If this can happen in Pakistan it doesn’t just mean there’s something wrong with Pakistan. It means there’s something wrong with our world. Granted, this isn’t exactly breaking news but it is important that we do not forget the importance of education, of understanding, and of a global feminism that is culturally specific and also beneficial to every man, woman, boy, girl everywhere.
Please send and share well wishes to Malala Yousafzai and the other girls who were injured, as well as their families.