BBC blogger survives shot to head

by Antonio Zaragoza

MCT Campus

At the age of 11, Malala Yousafzai was giving a voice to many young Pakistanis by standing in direct defiance of the Taliban and speaking for educational rights in Swat Valley, Pakistan, an area bordering Afghanistan. Now, at 14, she fights for survival after being shot in the head in an assassination attempt by Taliban fighters on Oct. 9. According to Pakistani officials, Yousafzai remains in critical condition, but shows signs of improvement at Rawalpindi General Hospital.

According to Pakistani authorities, Yousafzai was attacked as she was leaving her school. The Taliban men boarded the bus she was riding, identified her and shot her in the head and neck.

According to The New York Times, Taliban spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan confirmed Yousafzai was targeted because of her work on promoting educational equality for women and children in Swat Valley.

“We wanted to kill her as she was pro-West, she was speaking against Taliban and, more important, she was calling President (Barack) Obama as her ideal,” Ehsan said.

News of the assassination attempt on the teenager galvanized anti-Taliban sentiment through- out Pakistan. In Karachi, Pakistan thousands took to the streets in support of Yousafzai.

In 2009, Yousafzai began writing about her life and experiences as a young schoolgirl in Swat in a blog for the BBC. During this period, the Taliban’s strength and influence began to smother the landscape, causing wide-spread closures of schools across the region. The Taliban’s grip on Swat Valley displaced thousands of people, including Yousafzai’s family, who were exiled and separated.

During her separation, Yousafzai had the opportunity to meet Obama’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, whom she pleaded to intervene. Soon after, the Pakistani Army began a large offensive, which eventually pushed the Taliban back out of the area, allowing Yousafzai and her family to return home.

A children’s advocacy group, KidsRights Foundation, nomi- nated Yousafzai for the International Children’s Peace Prize. In 2011, she was awarded Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize. Her vigor and strength personify the people of the region who do not agree with the ideals of the Taliban, which forbids the education of women. Videos can be seen on the Internet of women beaten for speaking against the extremist regime. Yousafzai’s writings directly corroborate the accusations against the Taliban. Her outspoken views were enough to cause the Taliban to mark the young girl for death.

Last week’s attack on Yousafzai serves as a clear picture of what the Taliban represents and is willing to do in order to maintain control. The assassination attempt on Yousafzai also demonstrates the highly volatile and precarious situation still exists- ing in this part of Pakistan. As U.S. troops begin their departure from the region, questions regarding the resolve of the Afghan and Pakistani military in the fight against the Taliban remain. Whether or not local governments and militaries are able to confront and destroy the Taliban has yet to be seen. What is certain is an enemy threatened by the resolve of a young child and willing to take that child’s life demonstrates it is an enemy that cannot be reasoned with or bargained with diplomatically.

Throughout Pakistan, outrage against the Taliban’s assassination attempt on Yousafzai has flared and a $100,000 reward has been issued for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators by Pakistani au- thorities.

Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of staff of the Pakistani Army, said in a statement, “The cowards who attacked Yousafzai and her fellow students have time and again shown how little regard they have for hu- man life and how low they can fall in their cruel ambition to impose their twisted ideology.”

Yousafzai rides precariously on the edge of survival in a hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan while recovering from a surgery, which successfully re- moved the bullet from her head. The nation of Pakistan and the rest of the world holds its collective breath in hopes of Yousafzai recovery.

“I want to get my education and I want to become a doctor,” Yousafzai said in an interview with Adam El- lick of The New York Times in 2009. Her voice trails off and she begins to cry, sensing her dream may be lost. For many in the world, the idea of a better life and education is universal.

In this unstable region, however, dreams are fought hard for and many like Yousafzai are willing to pay with their lives to achieve those dreams.