Malala - A Pakistani Trailblazer for Global Education and Women Rights
Christiane Amanpour's interview with Malala Yousafzai, The Bravest Girl in the World, will air Sunday, October 13 at 7pm ET, and reair during Amanpour's normal Monday timeslot.
By Mick Krever, CNN, October 11, 2013
When Malala Yousafzai woke from the coma the Taliban put her in, she was aware of only a few things.
“Yes, Malala, you were shot,” she told herself.
She thought back to her dreams – of lying on a stretcher, being in some distant place far from home and school – and realized that they weren’t dreams, but recollections.
“The nurses and doctors, everyone was speaking in English,” she recalls. “I realized that now I am not in Pakistan.”
All Malala Yousafzai wanted was to go to school.
But she lived in an area of Pakistan, the Swat Valley, where the Taliban had effectively taken over governance, and imposed its harsh ideology – of no music, no visible women, and certainly no girls in school.
For defying their will, and refusing to stay silent, the Taliban tried to murder Malala, then a 15-year-old girl.
Miraculously, she survived, and has continued speaking truth to power about education, extremism, and equality.
Almost a year to the day after the attempt on her life, Malala, and her father Ziauddin, spoke with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in front of a live town hall audience at the 92nd Street Y in New York.
The Taliban, she told Amanpour, “say that we are going to fight for Islam. … So I think we also must think about them.”
“And that's why I want to tell Taliban [to] be peaceful,” she said, “and the real jihad is to fight through pens and to fight through your words. Do that jihad. And that's the jihad that I am doing. I am fighting for my rights, for the rights of every girl.”
When she woke up from her week-long coma she asked for her mother and father by writing on a piece of paper; she had a breathing tube in her throat that prevented her from speaking.
“The first thing I did was that I thanked Allah – I thanked God, because I was surviving, I was living,” she told Amanpour.
“They told me that your father is safe and he will come soon, as soon as possible,” she recounted.
“And the second question that was really important for me and about which I was thinking - who will pay for me? Because I don't have money and I also knew that my father is running a school, but the buildings of the schools are on rent, the home is on rent … then I was thinking he might be asking people for loans.”
A 15-year-old girl, a week after being shot in the head by the Taliban, was worried about how her medical bills would be paid.
Malala was ten when the Taliban came to the Swat Valley, she writes in her memoir out this week, “I Am Malala.”
“Moniba and I had been reading the Twilight books and longed to be vampires,” she wrote. “It seemed to us that the Taliban arrived in the night just like vampires.”
The Taliban started broadcasting nightly sermons on FM Radio. Everyone started calling it “Mullah FM.”
In the beginning, their messages were guidance on living that appealed to a devout audience, including Malala’s mother.
Slowly, they became more radical, urging people to give up their TVs and music.
Then, Malala told Amanpour, the Radio Mullah – as they called him – made an announcement that the young schoolgirl could not possibly abide.
“‘No girl is allowed to go to school,’” she recalls him saying. “‘And if she goes, then, you know what we can do.’”
They congratulated the girls that heeded the call.
“‘Miss So-and-so has stopped going to school and will go to heaven,’ he’d say,” she wrote.
And you had only to walk around her hometown of Mingora, in the Swat Valley, to see what would happen if you crossed them – women flogged in the street, decapitated men lying in the gutter.
But Malala defied the call. She went to school as normal, and listened to the Western music – Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez – of which she was fond.
She replaced her school uniform with plain clothes, to avoid attention; she wore a Harry Potter backpack, as shown in a documentary by Adam Ellick of the New York Times.
At one point, a Pashto television station interviewed some school children, including Malala, about life in Swat. Soon thereafter, she spoke to a national broadcaster, Geo TV.
“I did not want to be silent, because I had to live in that situation forever,” she said, nearly screaming the final word. “And it was a better idea, because otherwise they were going to kill us – so it was a better idea to speak and then be killed.”
A producer from the BBC approached her father about having one of his teachers blog about the experience of living under Taliban rule; instead, Malala volunteered herself.
“On my way from school to home I heard a man saying 'I will kill you,’” she wrote on January 3, 2009. “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.”
You cannot really tell the story of Malala Yousafzai without talking about her father, Ziauddin.
In most Pakistani families, Ziauddin told Amanpour, when a girl is born, “a kind of sympathy is expressed with [the] mother,” an acknowledgement of the fact that boys are vastly more valued than are girls.
Not so for Ziauddin.
“I usually tell people, don’t ask me what I have done,” he said. “Just ask me what I did not do. That is important. The only thing which I did not do, and I went against the taboos, and I went against the tradition – that I did not clip the wings of my daughter to fly.”
It is impossible to stand with Ziauddin and his daughter and not feel, as if by osmosis, the soul-wrenching love he feels for his daughter.
“She's the most precious person for me in my life,” he told Amanpour. “And we are not only father and daughter, we are friends.”
But to ask Malala, it is Ziauddin’s personal courage, not his devotion to her, that has fueled her determination most.
“I also remember the time of terrorism, when no one was speaking, and my father dared to speak, and he raised up his voice,” she said. “He was not afraid of death at that time. And he still not is.”
Ziauddin, an English-teacher by vocation, ran the girls’ school, Khushal School, that Malala attended.
“You blast my school and you will say, ‘Don't condemn it.’ It's very difficult,” Ziauddin said of the Taliban. “You kill my people and say don't say anything.”
“I think better to die than to live in such a situation,” he told Amanpour. “I think that it's better to live for one day to speak for your right than to live for a hundred years in such a slavery.”
Even when she had an international media profile, Malala worried that the Taliban would come for her father, not her.
“I was worried about my father, because I was not expecting Taliban to come for me,” she said. “I thought that they might have a little bit manners, and their behavior would be – somehow they would be like humans.”
It was Ziauddin who encouraged Malala to speak up, and allowed her to give TV interviews, blog for the BBC, and raise her international profile.
Did he, Amanpour asked, feel at all responsible for the violent attack that almost ended his daughter’s life?
“No,” he said emphatically. “Never.”
Pakistan’s government, he said, “could not protect four hundred schools in Swat. They should be repenting that they could not protect the girls to be flogged. They could not protect the infrastructure of Swat to be sold and they could not protect the men to be slaughtered in the square. Why should I repent?”
When Malala was young, she wanted to be a doctor. She got good grades, she told Amanpour – and not just because her father was the school principal, she chuckled – and in her community the studious girls could become one of two things: a doctor or a teacher.
Ziauddin, no doubt with some mix of affection and recognition that she was a prodigy, encouraged her to speak up and think about going into politics.
Soon, she started to like the idea.
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Malala Yousafzai didn't win the Nobel Peace Prize. She didn't need to - Telegraph