A Brief History
On October 9, 2012, 15 year old Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani Muslim girl, was shot in the face by Taliban Islamic extremist terrorists for the “crime” of being a girl that wanted to go to school to learn to read and write.
Despite being well educated for her area in Pakistan, as her parents ran a chain of schools, Malala was smart enough to write under a pseudonym when blogging for the BBC, as Taliban insurgents deemed it un-Islamic for girls to get an education. The Taliban (same religious extremists that ran Afghanistan until the US invasion in 2001 and are re-taking charge of that country in 2021) had declared schools for girls illegal after January of 2012. The school Malala attended was closed, as the Taliban had destroyed over 100 girls schools. Within months, the Taliban agreed to allow some girls to attend boys’ schools, but still outlawed girls’ schools.
Malala’s family was caught up in the sectarian violence in Pakistan between the government and the Taliban, and were forced from their home, which they found looted and vandalized when they returned. Malala resumed her advocacy of the rights of females in an Islamic country, including the right to an education. She became locally well known for her beliefs, and when the BBC revealed her identity, she became internationally well known as a Muslim women’s rights activist.
When Malala was riding a bus to school on October 9, 2012, the bus was stopped and boarded by Taliban terrorists, who demanded to know which girl was Malala, or else they would shoot all the children. Malala was identified and shot in the face, the bullet going through her head, through her neck, and stopping in her shoulder. Another pair of the girls on the bus were also injured.
The grievously injured girl was taken to Peshawar to a military hospital, underwent surgery, and was then sent on to Rawalpindi to another military hospital. Malala’s chances of survival had gotten better, but not her chances for a full recovery. Malala was then flown to England to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham (all expenses paid for by the Pakistani government), where her story became an international focus, with people all over the world closely watching her progress. Given a cochlear implant to restore her hearing and skull reconstruction surgery, Malala was recovering faster and more completely than seemed likely. The world watched in awe, and money rolled in to support the education of girls in third world countries.
Malala has gone on to earn a college degree from Oxford University and establish the Malala Fund, an organization that advocates for the education of females. As of 2021 she is now 24 years old. Also as of 2021, the re-taking of control of Afghanistan by the Taliban has brought the issue of the rights of women and girls in that region to international attention.
Meanwhile, the government of Pakistan had issued a $200,000 reward for the capture of the gunman that shot Malala, and Muslim clerics in Pakistan issued a “fatwa,” a holy directive, to capture the perpetrator of the crime. Islamic scholars in and outside of Pakistan denounced the Taliban and stated clearly that such murderous activity was outside of Islamic law. The man identified as the shooter has not been caught, but 10 alleged conspirators were tried and their convictions and life sentences were announced, but it was later found out that 8 of them had secretly been acquitted and released. All other suspects remain at large, possibly in Afghanistan.
Malala has used her celebrity to appear on television and other media and live events to continue her advocacy of education for girls, has spoken at the UN, and received the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. She has received dozens of other honors and remains an inspiration to girls all over the world.
Question for students (and subscribers): Are there any other girls or young women who you think deserve the Nobel Peace Prize? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Lamb, Christina and Malala Yousafzai. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. Back Bay Books, 2015.