I hope that everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving Day, whether it was a huge gathering or only a quiet one-day vacation from the normal stresses of modern life. One of the things that I was most thankful for was the fact that I grew up in a country that enabled and encouraged me to enjoy the fruits of an advanced education. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the pretty little girl pictured above.
Malala Yousafzai is the 15 year old Pakistani girl who was shot during an assassination attempt by the Taliban on October ninth of this year. Malala's crime is that she loves going to school and believes that girls are entitled to the same level of education as boys. The fact that she has been vocal about this right has angered the Taliban--a terrorist organization that believes females should not receive an education.
The Taliban has focused its attention on repressing and subjugating women in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Former First Lady Laura Bush wrote an editorial for The Washington Post in which she described their atrocities: "Women were not allowed to work or attend school. Taliban religious police patrolled the streets, beating women who might venture out alone, who were not dressed 'properly' or who dared to laugh out loud. Women could not wear shoes that made too much noise, and their fingernails were ripped out for the 'crime' of wearing nail polish."
Malala's father, Zia Yousafzai, was one of the last teachers in their area (Swat) to stop teaching girls due to pressure from the Taliban. Their family was forced to flee to Abbottabad, the city where Osama Bin Laden was killed last year. He has always supported his daughter's campaign for the rights of all girls to be educated.
Malala is well known in Pakistan because she wrote a blog protesting what the Taliban had done in Swat. That blog became part of the BBC's Urdu-language service, and readers around the world read an eleven year old girl's first-person story about hiding school books under her scarf and being afraid to wear a school uniform. She later became the focus of several media documentaries by The New York Times. In 2011, she was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize, and she won Pakistan's first National Youth Peace Prize.
The attack happened on a Tuesday afternoon when Malala and her 15 classmates were riding home in a small school bus. A masked gunman boarded the bus, asked for Malala by name, and then shot her in the head and neck. She was air-lifted from Pakistan to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England for extensive surgical care. Experts expect her recovery to include surgeries, rehabilitation and counseling that could last for years. Her family remains at her bedside, and--for once--the Taliban has inadvertently given the world a modern-day heroine whom some are comparing to a Middle Eastern Anne Frank.
Later this month, Taliban members plan to gather at Islamabad's notorious Red Mosque, where Malala will be denounced as an apostate who has turned her back on Islam. She and her family have already received death threats, even before this latest "fatwa" was planned.
Looking forward to your comments...