On October 9 this year Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl from the Swat Valley who had recently turned fifteen, was travelling home from school in a school bus which was stopped by Taliban gunmen. They singled her out and shot her twice, once in the head and once in the neck. Miraculously she was not killed but her injuries were severe and she was rushed to hospital in a critical condition. After a decompressive craniectomy to relieve pressure from swelling in the brain and clinging to life in an induced coma, on October 15 she was air-lifted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham in the UK for further treatment and rehabilitation. She is showing signs of improvement and, although the full after effects of her injuries won't be fully clear for up to a year, she seems to be recovering well.
And what were the terrible crimes for which the Taliban decided a schoolgirl should be executed? She, with the support and encouragement of her father, had been campaigning for girls to be allowed to be educated. She started as a twelve year old, writing a blog for the BBC about life in the Swat Valley and the effect the Taliban were having there, in particular, on the closure of girls' schools. Brave and intelligent, she had become more and more prominent as she fought for the right to an education. The Taliban have tried to justify their action on the basis of religion but there has been a massive outcry from Islamic leaders denying that neither it nor many other Taliban claims are truly based on Islam.
The truth is the Taliban are religious fundamentalists and, no matter what their faith, such people are potentially dangerous. They know they are right and, in their view, that permits or, more accurately, demands that they enforce their beliefs on everyone else. It's not a matter of "This is what I believe and I think you're wrong so I will try to educate you to my way of thinking." for fundamentalists. For them it's "You must believe in what I believe and, if you don't, I will force you to. "
Scary stuff. I'm sure Malala and her family knew there were risks and it speaks volumes that she and they refused to let themselves be beaten down. The Taliban may have lost more than they gained by this action. I hope so. We should all salute a brave girl for fighting for her rights.
Best wishes, Malala. You are an inspiration and a true role model.