By NICK CHILES
When the teenager in your house gets to complaining about having to wash the dishes, tell her the story of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai.
Yousafzai was shot in the neck by the Taliban in Pakistan earlier today when they attacked her school bus as it made its way back home from school. What could a 14-year-old girl possibly do to invoke the ire of this terrorist army hated around the world? Malala had the gall to pen a column for the BBC—under a pen name—speaking out on behalf of children’s rights and girls’ education.
The ninth grader is expected to survive the attack, which occurred in Mingora in northwest Pakistan, according to authorities. She was taken to a military hospital in Peshawar. A seventh-grade girl also was shot in the leg when the Taliban opened fire on the bus. Apparently they didn’t care if they took out other kids along with Malala. Cause that’s how the Taliban rolls.
Sometimes American kids need a quick reality check, something horrifying or illuminating shoved in their faces to make them realize how good they have it. The tale of Malala Yousafzai can serve as our Scared Straight lesson of the week.
Yousafzai first rose to prominence in through a diary about Taliban atrocities she wrote under a pen name for the BBC’s Urdu service. The Pakistani government awarded her a 1 million rupee ($10,500) prize and a peace award in 2011 for her bravery in raising her voice for children’s rights and girls’ education when few others in Pakistan dared to. She also was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011.
In her diary, Yousafzai wrote about her fears and growing Taliban influence. One morning, she wore her favorite pink dress. “During the morning assembly we were told not to wear colorful clothes as the Taliban would object to it,” she wrote.
Clearly, this little girl has some serious cojones—incidentally something that the men who followed orders by opening fire on a school bus full of children know nothing about.
“Two bearded armed men stopped our school van and asked for Malala and opened fire from behind the van,” said a girl named Shazia, who was the one hit in the leg.
Ihsanullah Ihsan, chief spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, said in calls to the media that Yousafzai was targeted because she generated “negative propaganda” about Muslims.
“She considers President Obama as her ideal. Malala is the symbol of the infidels and obscenity,” Ihsan said.
In Swat, the area where the attach occurred, Taliban insurgents were in control until a massive military operation drove them out in May 2009, but sporadic attacks have continued in the area.
“We have to fight the mind-set that is involved in this. We have to condemn it,” Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf told the Pakistani Senate. “Malala is like my daughter and yours, too. If that mind-set prevails, then whose daughter would be safe?”
Perhaps we have to think in a more global way in the U.S. If something like this can be done to a 14-year-old girl, even one halfway around the world, whose daughter is safe?
Malala started her diary when the Taliban banned girls’ education and bombed hundreds of schools, mostly those for girls, in Swat.
Her father, Zia Uddin Yousafzai, an educator and a member of Swat’s peace jirga, or tribal gathering, said she is doing “all right.”
“Please pray for her early recovery and health,” he said.
Indeed. We should do more than that. We need to let our girls and boys here in the U.S. know about the sacrifices that kids in other parts of the world are making to ensure that they have something too many American kids take for granted: An education.