April 22, 2024

At first glance, young Malala Yousufzai is just an ordinary 14-year-old schoolgirl. In reality she is far from an innocent child. Her courage and public advocacy for girls’ education in a country that has little desire to defend those rights has distinguished her beyond Pakistan’s borders. It was in her homeland that the Taliban tried to silence her need for education by shooting her in the head on Oct. 9.
Yousafzai lives in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, where the Taliban has established a presence of intimidation and oppression. She has been an outspoken critic of the Taliban since she was 11, blogging about her desire for peace in the region and throughout Pakistan, as well as becoming a  voice advocating for girls’ education – something the Taliban opposes with brutal force. For her courage, Yousafzai was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011 and was the inaugural winner of Pakistan’s 2011 National Youth Peace Prize.
She is now in the United Kingdom recovering from her bullet wounds. The Taliban has vowed to target her again. Ehsanullah Ehsan, a Taliban spokesman, called her outspoken commitment to education and peace an “obscenity,” condemning her for “openly propagating” Western culture.  Ehsan said of the attack, “Let this be a lesson.”
Indeed, it is a lesson of the brutality with which the Taliban operates in its quest for control, at the expense of basic human rights.
Occasionally in life people are confronted with actions that are so horrendous that they can’t help but step back and say “enough;” this happens to be one of those occasions. Pakistanis from a broad political and religious spectrum have united in outrage and revulsion at the attack, making her a beacon of light in a country filled with the darkness of oppression and ignorance.
This will not be the last attack from groups that try to assign noble intentions to their deeds while hiding behind the guises of religious teachings.
But it should serve to remind us all that whatever our worries are here, they are dwarfed by life in a land where even day-to-day living is not just a struggle, but dangerous beyond our comprehension.
On Sunday, we will once again be reminded how courageous men and women paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we take for granted, the very same rights Yousafzai is fighting for. The least we can do is take a few moments from our busy daily schedules and honour that sacrifice.