The Nobel Peace Prize was jointly awarded on Oct. 10 to Pakistan’s Malala Yousufzai and India’s Kailash Satyarthi for “their defense of children’s right to education and their struggle against suppressing children and teenagers.”
Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, said: “Children must go to school and not be financially exploited.” This is the sublime message that 17-year-old Yousufzai has tried to spread worldwide via her blog, which she started in 2009. She was only 13 years old when she was granted the national peace prize in Pakistan.
British and other TV channels and dailies agreed on Jan. 4 that the most important news that day was Yousufzai leaving Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England. She was being treated there after Taliban fighters shot her in the head for defying the movement, exposing its crimes and advocating the education of girls.
On Oct. 9 last year, two masked men halted a school bus transporting female students in Pakistan. One of the men boarded the bus and started screaming: “Who is Malala? Speak or I’ll shoot you all. Where is she, who attacks God’s soldiers, the Taliban? She must be punished.” He then identified her and shot her in the head.
Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said: “Malala was shot because she’s a secular girl. This must be considered a warning to other youths like her. She won’t be safe if she survives this time. She supported the West and opposed the Taliban. She was young but she supported Western culture.”
Yousufzai’s fame began when she started exposing atrocities committed by extremist Islamists in control of the Swat district in northwest Pakistan, where she lived. She did so through a blog using a fake name. In one TV interview, she said: “I wanted to scream out loud and tell the entire world what we suffered from under the Taliban’s rule.”
During their control of Swat, religious extremists burnt schools, prohibited the education of girls, and forced women to either wear the burqa or stay at home. Among what she wrote in her blog during that time:
- Jan. 3, 2009: “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.”
- Jan. 5, 2009: “During the morning assembly, we were told not to wear colourful clothes as the Taleban would object to it.”
- March 3, 2009: “On our way to school, my friend asked me to cover my head properly, otherwise Taliban will punish us.”
- March 12, 2009: “I had a sore throat. My father took me to the doctor. There a woman told us about a boy named Anis, ‘Anis was with Taliban.’ His Taliban friend told him that he had a dream that he is surrounded by heavenly virgins in Paradise. The boy then asked his parents if he could become a suicide bomber to go to the Paradise. The parents refused. But Anis exploded himself at a check post of security forces, anyway.”
Awarding Yousufzai the Nobel Peace Prize is a significant step that honors this young girl who held on to her principles despite all the threats against her. She is the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner in its 114-year history. Her story may move many to reconsider their resistance to concepts aimed at pushing their societies forward.
This article was first published in al-Masry al-Youm
Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of “Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak,” a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy
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