Malala Yousafzai. She is the girl who was shot in the head by Taliban.
This was her only identity to me for a long time.
Why was she shot? What did she do ?
Various articles in Facebook posts provided me some answers. She was campaigning against Taliban for girls’ education rights in Swat valley.
Where is Swat? What a teenager can do anything against the barbaric Taliban?
I learnt that Swat is a part of Pakistan. Malala, a blogger in BBC website used to write about the life in Taliban dominated Swat valley. She spoke in many interviews how Taliban destroyed schools (specially those educating girls). Taliban gave her warnings, but she didn’t listen.
Ultimately, Taliban did what they are best at. One day, they shot her in the head when she was returning from school.
Taliban’s bullets failed to end her life though. She was taken to Birmingham. UK doctors operated several times and gave her a new life. Currently, she lives in England with her family and pursuing rest of her education there. She is also the youngest receiver of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
This was all that I knew about Malala. But I believed there should be something more to her story. What I have learnt from ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ is that Taliban rule makes life hell.
Then how did Malala gather her courage for her blog ? What made the media to interview an ordinary girl like Malala ? What is her life right now in England ?
I got the answers when my husband gifted me the book ‘I Am Malala’ on my birthday. The book is an outcome of the combined efforts of Malala Yousafzai & Christina Lamb.
It took me back to the days before Taliban ruled the Swat valley.
Ziauddin Yousafzai and his friend, Hidayatullah ran a school together (named as Khushal school) in Mingora, Swat. Ziauddin struggled a lot and invested his entire savings to open this school. He dreamt of providing good education to children. The school had minimum facilities and less students. One part of the school also acted as the shelter of Hidayatullah, Ziauddin and his wife,Toor Pekai Yousafzai. In spite of having all odds in his favour, Ziauddin never thought of closing the school.
In the very same school, Toor Pekai gave birth to their second child (their first child was a stillborn),a girl, on 12th July,1997. Although she wished for a boy, but Ziauddin was happy to see his bright eyed new-born girl. He named her Malala (after the famous Pashtun warrior Malalai), much to the dislike of his father who believed that the name meant ‘grief-stricken’.
Malala literally grew up in the school. She played in it’s ground, tottered in the classes and gradually started liking books. Fights with her younger brothers- Khushal & Atal , a wish to have her own room in the ‘always guest studded’ house never came in between Malala and her studies. She had seen her father confronting a local Mufti, who believed that educating girls was a serious crime. The plight of street kids who spent their lives in collecting waste from the ‘Rubbish Mountain’ made Malala realise that she was lucky to have a pen in her hand. It was a good life even in the midst of heavy floods, a disastrous earthquake, US army raids after 9/11 attack and the failed governance.
Then came ‘Radio Mullah’, who got popular in Mingora because of his interpretation of Holy Quran. He started with preaching men to keep beards, quit smoking, discussed the correct way of praying and slowly started banning TVs,DVDs, CDs. Soon, he made purdah(veil) for women a necessity, made their movements restricted without a male relative and finally ordered everyone to stop educating their girls. Those who didn’t obey rules were punished brutally. People too never protested against him.They were handing over their golds, money and effort to build Radio Mullah’s building instead. Radio Mullah in reality was a 28 year old Taliban leader, Maulana Fazlullah.
Taliban declared 15th January,2009 as the deadline for closing all girls’s schools. Ziauddin tried to stop this through various meetings and gatherings. His friend Abdul Hai Kakar, a BBC radio correspondent in Peshawar contacted him for a schoolgirl who could write a diary about life under Taliban. Nobody was willing to involve their daughters. Malala came forward for the responsibility. Taking the pen name of Gul Makai, she spoke over phone on a regular basis with Hai Kakar about the Taliban violence. In no time, she found herself in the middle of various radio interviews describing the need for girls’ education.
A peace deal was struck between Taliban and the provincial government on 16th February,2009. Schools (for girls) reopened. Still Taliban had the upper hand over army in Swat valley. Fear of being killed couldn’t stop Ziauddin and Malala to talk about this ‘funny kind of peace’ in interviews. Malala’s only concern was her upcoming exams.
9th October,2012 :
Malala was returning home after completing her paper on Pakistan Studies. Suddenly, two young men stopped her school van. They asked, ‘Who is Malala ?’ Other girls looked at Malala, the only girl sitting without her face covered. Those men fired at Malala injuring her skull, left eye socket and left shoulder. Two other girls were also shot in this chaos. Instantly, Malala became an international news. Many countries offered their help in treating Malala.
Malala recovered after a lot of prayers , with a titanium plate inside her skull and an electronic hearing aid in her head near her left ear. She stays in England now and dreams of girls’ education with a ‘grimacing’ smile.
There are controversies thatMalala’s attack was a staged one. She couldn’t even read or write when Gul Makai story emerged. I remember reading one article where Malala’s claim to fame was given to one Taliban who couldn’t do his job properly. A Taliban group claimed that Malala was shot only because she was spreading Western influence by taking her idol’s name, Barack Obama.
I think these controversies shouldn’t restrict anyone to read ‘I Am Malala’. This book makes us realise that education, which we sometimes take for granted, can be a matter of luxury in someone else’s life.