Just over a month ago, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head. She was the victim of an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen. Malala was fourteen years old. Returning home from school on a bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, she was attacked by a masked gunman because she was considered to be ‘speak[ing] against the Taliban’ .
Malala had previously blogged under a pseudonym for the BBC in early 2009: attempting to portray life under Taliban rule whilst promoting equal treatment of women in education. During this period, the Swat Valley was overrun by militants. Music, television and girl’s education were all banned as the Taliban wreaked havoc, blowing up schools in the area. Following the release of a documentary about Malala by a New York Times reporter , she began appearing on television to publicly advocate female education. However, becoming a more prominent spokeswoman for gender equality in education inevitably drew the attention of the Taliban. Whilst children of her age in the UK might experience the occasional malicious comment on Facebook, Malala received death threats. Standing staunch in the face of intimidation, the teenage girl risked everything, and in a meeting earlier this year, Taliban leaders unanimously agreed to kill her. Discrimination against women in education may seem a distant vestige of the past to us, but it is a very real problem in Pakistan and its surrounding nations. It is clear that for Malala, speaking out against the Taliban and their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam was akin to a death sentence.
Since the shooting, Malala has been recovering well. Recently, she has been pictured sitting up (above), and has been reading the letters of support that have been sent from people around the world. But perhaps the most noticeable reaction came in the form of an online petition with over 100,000 signatures to date. The petition asks the Foreign Secretary William Hague, the Shadow Foreign Secretary and the three main UK party leaders to nominate Malala for the Nobel Peace Prize. I urge you to sign the petition, and also to spread the word to friends and family. In the words of the petition’s creator, ‘a Nobel Peace Prize for Malala will send a clear message that the world is watching and will support those who stand up for gender equality and universal human rights’.
1 The rest of the Taliban’s ‘justification’ for this depraved attempted murder:
2 I would highly recommend watching this moving documentary (NSFW):