A teenaged peace activist and advocate for the education of girls in Pakistan was targeted by the Taliban Tuesday. Malala Yousufzai, 14, admired across Pakistan for exposing the reality of life under the Taliban, was shot in the neck and head while on her school bus. Another girl on the bus was also wounded. Both girls remain in critical condition.
Malala was the recipient of Pakistan’s first National Peace Prize last November, a prize instituted to award a child under 18 who contributes to peace and education.
As her school bus was ready to leave the private school run by Malala’s father, a bearded gunman approached the bus and asked which of the girls was Malala. One girl pointed to Malala, who denied her identity. The gunman proceeded to shoot them both.
Taking responsibility for the brutal attack, Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan said by telephone, “This was a new chapter of obscenity, and we have to finish this chapter,” as reported by the Associated Press.
Malala lives in the Swat Valley — nicknamed the Switzerland of Pakistan — which was once a popular, local tourist spot. Islamists began their takeover of the valley in 2007. The territory provided a safe haven for Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters since it is near the border of Afghanistan.
By 2008 and for the next two years, the valley fell completely into their hands. Strict Sharia “justice” was meted out – women were not permitted to go out shopping and those who were considered immoral were whipped; opponents were beheaded, girls schools (as well as some boy’s institutions) were closed and/or destroyed – a total of close to 200.
Even though the Pakistani military launched an attack against the Taliban to root them out of the valley, their efforts were only partially successful.
Malala began speaking out against the atrocities of the Taliban at the age of 11, when she wrote a blog for the BBC under the pseudonym of Gul Makai. In 2009, she began speaking out in favor of the education of girls.
Malala is well-known and loved across Pakistan. The attack provoked anger among Pakistani’s, long-suffering the Taliban’s history of violence toward women in their country. Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf condemned the attack and called Malala a daughter of Pakistan.
One of the girl’s cousins, Azizul Hasan said, “This attack cannot scare us, nor the courageous Malala. This cowardly act cannot deter Malala to give up her efforts.”
Kamila Hayat, a senior official of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said Malala’s activism sent a global message that Pakistani girls could fight for their rights. But she is now concerned that the attack would prevent other parents from letting their children speak out against the Taliban.
“This is an attack to silence courage through a bullet,” Hayat said. “These are the forces who want to take us to the dark ages.”
- Pakistani Girl Shot by Taliban Airlifted to England (radicalislam.org)
- Pakistani Teen Shot by Taliban Becomes ‘Daughter of the Nation’ (foxnews.com)
- Pakistan Sends Teen Shot By Taliban to UK for Care (foxnews.com)
- Malala Yousafzai: Pakistani girl shot by Taliban to be treated in Birmingham (telegraph.co.uk)
- Several people questioned at Pakistani girl’s hospital (foxnews.com)