Malala Yousafzai – A ray of hope

October 9, 2012– Swat Valley, Pakistan: A group of girls were going back to their homes after taking an exam at school. Suddenly a gunman entered in to the bus and started asking – “Which one of you is Malala? Speak up, otherwise I will shoot you all.” Everyone froze in terror. No one spoke anything. The man kept shouting. A young girl stood up like a flash and said, ” I am Malala”. There was no fear in her eyes. The masked gunman went closer, pointed the gun at her and shot… The bullet went through her head, neck and ended in shoulder. After the attack, she was airlifted to Peshawar and the treatment began. After a three hours operation, the bullet was removed but it had affected her spinal cord and left her in coma.

The Taliban took the responsibility of the attack soon after the news spread. On 12 October, a group of 50 Islamic clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwa against those who tried to kill her, but the Taliban reiterated its intent to kill her and her father, Ziauddin.

In the following days, she was moved to Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology in Rawalpindi where minute symptoms of her survival appeared. On October 15, she was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham in United Kingdom. It was two days later when she came out of coma and was allowed to meet her family. She was able to stand up and recollect few memories of the past. But doctors are still skeptic whether there will be a smooth recovery or not which will be clear in the next one year. Since the left part of her brain was damaged, there is a possibility that the right portion of her body may show some problems in future. 

But who is Malala Yousafzai? Why the Taliban in Swat valley is after her life? What has she done wrong? She is just 15, too young for most of us. But her story remains an inspiration. 

January 14, 2009– Mingora Town, Swat Valley: Ziauddin turns his radio on and his daughter Malala who is sitting besides him listens to the announcement carefully. The announcement was from Taliban, who were unofficially ruling the Swat valley. It said that no girl child would be allowed to the schools from the next day onwards and whoever dared to go against it, would be punished by Taliban. And the punishment by Taliban was cruel. This was the time when one could often see a beheaded human body on the roads or Talibanis beating someone openly those who went against their rules. The influence of governance and law was negligible. 

In this situation, Malala decided to go to school with her friends. They didn’t wear the uniform though.  This would not let Taliban know that girls are going to school- they thought. Later that evening she read a local newspaper which carried the story of Swat valley from the excerpts of BBC blog; the identity of the author was kept confidential due to security reasons. Malala however smiled secretly while reading it. After all she had been writing this Blog for quite some time now. Her father Ziauddin had asked her to write the diary for BBC when he could not find anyone in the town who had the guts to present the real picture. 

BBC Blogs: Initially Malala had daily conversations with a BBC reporter where she talked about everything she observed at the school and outside it. Later she started writing on the same on regular basis. She was just 11 years old at that time yet her observations clearly presented the harsh realities of Swat valley. Some of the excerpts from her BBC blog are as below:

On my way from school to home I heard a man saying ‘I will kill you’. I hastened my pace and after a while I looked back if the man was still coming behind me. But to my utter relief he was talking on his mobile and must have been threatening someone else over the phone.”

People do not leave their homeland on their own free will – only poverty or a lover usually makes you leave so rapidly.”

“It seems that it is only when dozens of schools have been destroyed and hundreds others closed down that the army thinks about protecting them. Had they conducted their operations here properly, this situation would not have arisen.”

In the next couple of months, situation in the valley turned even worse. The women were no longer allowed to go outside. In May, the government launched its operation against Taliban in the Swat valley. Mingora was evacuated and Malala was sent to her relatives in countryside while Ziauddin went to Peshawar to protest against government’s inaction that had led to serious problems in the valley. Malala who spent time with a number of relatives was bored with the refugee life and often missed her books. She played a lot of cricket but the joy of studies and school was different for her. The military operation soon got over and by the time July came, the Prime Minister had announced that the Swat valley residents could go back to their homes.

July 24, 2009 Malala reunited with her family as they went back to their home. There were news of most houses being looted in the valley and therefore they were expecting a lot of damage. But contrary to that, their house had seen no damage while Malala’s school was slightly blemished. Later some clues suggested that Pakistani army had stayed in the school. Malala was relieved when she saw that her books and all the study material were safe. Yet looking at all this, she could not stop herself and cried. This was the time when she decided to become a politician and change the system. She said there were number of crises in the country and she wanted to eradicate them. 12 years old Malala who admired people like Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan for their leadership was on her way to bring a change in the Swat valley and probably in Pakistan too.

During this period of Taliban’s rule and her refuge, New York Times reporter Adam B. Ellick filmed a documentary on Malala which brought her to fame, not just in Pakistan but worldwide. She was interviewed by several Pakistani news channels where she repeatedly talked about female education and stood against Taliban. I remember in one of those interviews she talked about the possibility of a Taliban person meeting her. She said she would beat them with Chappals. These small statements were enough for Taliban to do terrible harm to her. But she didn’t fear anyone. Ziauddin and Malala both were getting threats from Taliban but they chose to continue their fight against the extremists. 

Malala was soon appointed the Chair of District Child Assembly Swat. In October 2011, when she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize, she became a celebrity in Pakistan. Two months later when Pakistan started a new award National Youth Peace Prize and Malala was the first recipient of it. Since then she has been an activist fighting for women’s rights, education and peace. 

On November 10, 2012 the world observed Malala Day in honor of Yousafzai who escaped the death by centimeters. The whole world is hoping for her full recovery. In another news, Malala had asked for a book from her father and was talking about going back to Pakistan. She still has the courage to fight for a right cause and she has proved the world that it doesn’t require a strong body but a strong will to stand against evil. There was a lot of talk in the last few days about the possibility of giving Nobel Peace Prize to her. But i guess that’s not important. The important thing is that a fifteen years old girl has shown the world a right path towards peace, education and human rights. She has and she will bring a change in the lives of millions of people around the world. And even if it caused a slight fear in the minds of Taliban the young girl has done a great job, way beyond the government and the military. Salute !

Published by Deepak Rana

A writer, a wanderer. Keeps dreaming and aspires to make them true.

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