Op-Ed: Courageous Women Can Change the World: Malala Yousafzai
MP Fiamma NirensteinHon. Fiamma Nirenstein was the Vice-President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Chair of the Committee for the Inquiry into Antisemitism in the Italian Chamber of Deputies.
From Il Giornale, translated and sent to Arutz Sheva by the author
In order to fully understand why Malala Yousafzai, now fifteen years old, made an outstanding contribution to changing the world - and we hope she will continue to do so - it is important to take a look at the background of the following story.
It is a Dantesque background, where it is a challenge, as well as an act of courage against the blazing fires of hell, for a girl to go to school.
Malala’s district, Swat, fell under the rule of the Talibans, who led by a certain Fazlullah, bombed the girls’ school; the followers of this fanatic would flog the “apostates”, with crowds gathering at the mosque to witness the floggings, while Fazlullah screamed “The government says we shouldn’t, but we don’t follow their orders, we follow the orders of Allah!”
The crowd would respond “Allahu Akbar!” as it would also yell when Fazlullah asked them “Are you ready for an Islamic system? Are you prepared to make the sacrifices?”
Meanwhile, Fazlullah banned television, movies, music, polio vaccinations, tapes, radios, dance, singing, and TV serials. He would, however, constantly broadcast his harangues from local television stations, while, he prohibited anyone, under pain of death, to approach a television station.
A famous dancer, Shabana, was murdered, one among many other artists and intellectuals, and her body was left on display. Arts were deemed evil, therefore ruthlessly punished. Freedom of speech became a remote memory in the province of Swat, “my Swat” as Malala calls it, a place once deemed among the most free and most creative in Pakistan, thanks to its skiing tourism’s features.
That is, there was a certain degree of freedom until the invasion of the Talibans. This is a relative term. Female education, which has a peculiar place in the region, was deemed the worst among all perversions, worse than sympathy for the United States or tolerance of Christians and Jews.
We are writing about this as Malala’s case, the girl who was almost killed by a shot in the head, causing much uproar; a 14 year old girl, who became the symbol of the fight for culture and freedom of Islamic women, who was almost murdered because she blogged on the BBC site; she repeatedly spoke on television giving insights about her country in polished and refined English, a rare skill for people in her area.
At times she was considered a victim rather than a hero, and a victim especially of her father, Ziauddin Yousafai. Ziauddin is an intellectual, an ex-professor at Peshawar University, a poet, and a passionate advocate of the Swat Valley, he even is the owner of the girls’ school.
He learned about the attack on his daughter on October 9th 2012 while he was studying for a doctorate in Illinois. He had a serious crisis; he was afflicted by a terrible sense of guilt because he had been an ardent admirer and promoter of his little daughter’s intellectual gifts, pushing her despite her very young age towards school, study, reading, encouraging her to talk on television and to blog also in the face of the death threats of al Qaeda’s Talibans.
However, if you carefully read into Malala’s life, who is now peacefully studying in Birmingham and who has been proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize, any doubts regarding possible pressure from her father will be dispelled. On the contrary, you will acquire the conviction that Malala surely enjoyed her family’s support, but she, like an antenna which collected all the horror and all the courage, is the icepick of the Islamist condition of women. They find in her the magnificent will to break yjr terrible chains that are almost incomprehensible to us as Westerners.
Malala was born in 1997, in the city of Mingora in the Swat district. Although the Talibans formally left in 2009, their presence continued to torment the girls who dared to go to school in the following years. Malala was an already famous little girl in 2009, when she blogged on the daily invasion of the extremists into her life under a false name though.
In 2009 she wrote:
“I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taleban [sic]. I have had such dreams since the launch of the military operation in Swat. My mother made me breakfast and I went off to school. I was afraid going to school because the Taleban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools. Only 11 students attended the class out of 27. The number decreased because of Taleban’s edict. My three friends have shifted to Peshawar, Lahore and Rawalpindi with their families after this edict. 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.”
On Sunday January 4th she wrote:
“I heard my father talking about another three bodies lying at Green Chowk (crossing). I felt bad on hearing this news. Before the launch of the military operation we all used to go to Marghazar, Fiza Ghat and Kanju for picnics on Sundays. But now the situation is such that we have not been out on picnic for over a year and a half. We also used to go for a walk after dinner but now we are back home before sunset. Today I did some household chores, my homework and played with my brother. But my heart was beating fast – as I have to go to school tomorrow.”
The following day Malala wrote:
“I was getting ready for school and about to wear my uniform when I remembered that our principal had told us not to wear uniforms – and come to school wearing normal clothes instead.”
It is a diary of restrictions and persecutions against the education of girls, that Malala completes with television interventions, considered that she is often the only one available to answer the reporters’ questions, while many people are afraid.
When the dancer got killed, Malala dared to say on- camera: “They cannot stop me. I will get my education if it is my home, school or any place. This is our request to all the world. Save our schools. Save our world. Save our Pakistan. Save our Swat.”
The Talibans went on destroying all schools for girls in the area, after decreeing that they must close. Malala wrote: “Five more schools have been destroyed. I am quite surprised, because these schools were closed, so why did they also need to be destroyed?"
In solidarity, schools for boys decided not to open until February. The army gained back military control of the area in 2009, but by then no civilian facility was left, so Malala’s family had to flee from the inhabited areas, the refugee camps filled up and Malala wrote that instead of being a doctor when she would grow up, she might choose politics.
The line of her thoughts is direct and simple, dictated by an underlying choice: “I want to go to school”. And she did, when she eventually moved back to her home with her family.
But the worst was yet to come: last year a bearded gunman shot her in the head and in the neck on her way back from school. The Talibans claimed responsibility for the glorious action of attacking a little girl “because she was spreading lay ideas and was propagating against us. Moreover she idolizes the black devil Obama”.
After a struggle between life and death, Malala was then transferred to England where she was successfully treated. The attack caused "a wave of indignation", as they say, even among local politicians. How nice would it be not only to see Malala being awarded the Nobel Prize, but to watch a scene where these politicians, taking turns, each take a little girl by the hand to her desk at school with her books in their satchel at 8 a.m. for a couple of years.