Malala Yousafzai: In the Face of Bullets for Education

The14 year old outspoken Pakistani education activist, Malala Yousafzai, was shot on her way home returning from school by the Taliban on a school bus in the town of Swat.  In an assassination attempt to silence her criticism of her life under the terrorizing Taliban, Yousafzai survived the attack, while still recovering medically from the disturbing trauma. Yousafzai was critically injured in both her neck and head putting her in a coma for several days. It was only later when her condition improved, that she was flown out with the help of international supporters to Birmingham, UK for rehabilitation, where she is reportedly improving, but still doctors are uncertain about her ability to fully speak like before.

The young fighter for girls’ education has made international noise with the BBC coverage of the 2009 schools shutdown in Swat Valley by the Taliban and the threat of displacing Yousafzai’s family and thousands of others by banning all girls to go to school. With the support of her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, a pro-girls’ education teacher himself, she was introduced to a BBC reporter who was looking for a woman willing to write about her life under the Taliban.

Her first blog post was then published through BBC under a pseudonym on 3 January 2009. The Taliban put out a ban on girls to attend schools post 15 January 2012 after they had already bombed hundreds of girls’ school in the city of Mingora, Swat Valley, Pakistan as a threatening alarm.

That didn’t keep the young heroine from speaking up, and going to school despite the risk; she continued writing and was a vocal dissident against the repression of the Taliban following in her father’s footsteps. This caused the whole family a lot of trouble from eviction to death threats, but her father in one of the documentaries said, “It is my duty to fight for girls education, and if I have to die, then I rather die for this”. In 2009, despite the ban of girls to go to school, Yousafzai decided with few other to continue going, but in a more discrete manner not wearing the school uniform. She was globally recognized for her writings and a national celebrity by 2011 when Desmon Tutu, the famous South African social rights activist, announced her nomination for the International Children’s Peace Prize. She later was awarded Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize.

On the grim 9 October 2012, Malala Yousafzai faced what she had imagined before, a confrontation with the Taliban after she was already on their hit list. In response to her shooting, hundreds of girls in Swat and thousands of supporters around the world marched in anger and held candle-light vigils for Malala with a slogan familiar to many Egyptians, “We Are All Malala,” some wearing headbands saying, “I Am Malala.” In another light, famous singer Madonna stripped at her Los Angeles concert with “Malala” tattooed on her back, dedicating a speech and the song Like A Virgin “for all the girls around the world who deserve to have a voice”.

MalalaYousafzai is a hero to many Pakistanis; she is their role model to fight for their right to go school because a girl, just like a boy, deserves to have a life with basic human rights. In Egypt and around the world Malala is a symbol of strength, resilience, and bravery, for that we salute her, and wish her the best recovery so she can offer us the hope that sometimes drifts away with life’s misery. It is fair to say that if a 14 year old girl is taking bullets to speak about the importance of girls’ education in the face of intolerable repression, then the least we owe her is to ensure that we look deeply at our own schooling system and ensure that Malala’s message lives on.

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