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How A 14-year-old Girl Beat the Taliban

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Download 14-year old Malala Yousafzai is the first Pakistani child shortlisted for the International Children’s Peace Award, given to courageous children who have made a difference.

At the same time, she received the Pakistani National Peace Prize for her online diary reporting of the Taliban’s ban on education for girls.

Malala lives in Swat valley, a battleground for the Pakistani Taliban and government troops.

Now she’s celebrated as a children’s rights activist, hoping to become a politician someday.

Mudassar Shah first interviewed Malala when she was still writing underground, and meets her again after being nomination for the award.

Q: What was the happiest day of your life?

“I think it was coming back to school and coming back to home.”

14-year old Malala Yousafsai still remembers clearly the hard times she went through under the Taliban’s rule in Swat valley.

“The entire scenario was bad. We had to leave the home and we did not know that when would come back. That was the incident when I cried and when I was hopeless that I will never come back. The other one was when I was leaving my school at 14th January, the last day of my school and I did not know if I would come to the school or not. So that was the time when we lost hope.”

Under Taliban rule, girls were banned from school and women were forbidden from leaving their homes.

400 schools were destroyed between 2009 and 2011.  

The Taliban used illegal FM radio stations to preach against democracy, music and many individual liberties that are guaranteed by Pakistan’s Constitution.

Nobody dared to speak out against the militants, but not Malala.

She was only 11 years old when she started writing an online diary for BBC’s Urdu service.

“I think it was my heart, my soul and it was the atmosphere which compelled me to write and then my father who was in person supported me and who told me that no one can hurt you and no one can do anything to you. You are a free human being and it is your right to express your idea. So he supported me a lot.”

Zia Ud Din is Malala’s father.

“Malala is very confident. She is a great communicator because some time I failed to communicate myself as powerful as she can. Confidence and communication, these are two big qualities she has. She has very sharp intellect. She is very intelligent. She can argue on different themes and issues.”

The Taliban were driven from the Swat valley in 2009 after a huge military operation.

Schools have since reopened and women are free to leave their homes.

Malala hopes to become a politician one day so she can fight for Pashtun women’s rights.

“Before the terrorism era, I wanted to become a doctor but after that I decided to become a politician and to serve people through politics. Besides that I have an aim that I will serve the children of Swat and I will serve the humanity and I will do every possible thing for girls’ education.”

At school, Malala sometimes imitates her teachers, an amusement for her friends.

One of her teachers can’t differentiate between “F” and “P” like many other Pasthun people.

Beyond the laughs, Malala is happy to be at school. Her name is now engraved in a secondary school in Karachi.

She has a dream of building an education foundation for children in Swat, with around 10 thousand US dollars she received in prize money.

“We were in struggle for our lives. We were struggling for our education. We did not struggle for any award or reward. We were just thinking about our lives and schools and it was not for the awards but now if I have got all these things it is because it is from God. It is the beginning and I will do every possible thing which I can. I will do for girls’ education.”

Hera Salman is Malala’s close friend at school.

“If other girl gets award like her, she will be very proud of herself. Malala has got so many awards, but there’s nothing changed in her. Malala is the same as she was before.

Q: Are you jealous of Malala?

“Yes I am jealous because she becomes number one. But it is the result of her struggle and she speaks openly and she was not afraid of the situation. She expressed her thoughts with everybody.”

Malala is no longer worried about the Taliban.

But she’s concerned about the rigid Pasthun culture that provides less space for women to express themselves.

“If we look at the past, we are seeing that our society is becoming more and more religious and gender conscious so it seems sometime hopeless that it will not change because it is coming more and more tough day by day. So I think we should have hope at least and yes it can happen.”

Q: You have hope but the reality is different?

“Yes the reality is different because there was co-education in Swat and now we have separate campuses and now so many parents do not accept male teachers to teach the female students. It is the climax.”

With a healthy dose of bravery, Malala is ready to fight for women and children’s rights amd
wants to see Pashtun women become empowered.

“I feel a great change. Now it is not that kind of situation. We are in our school and we are studying. We are free. We can go to market. There is no fear, there is no terror, there is no such kind of activity which was in that time.”

Q: But do you have shawl while at that time you have burqa?

“We used to wear burqa in that time. It is our tradition to wear shawl so I am wearing shawl and now we are back to the track, which we were before 2007.”
Last Updated ( Monday, 27 February 2012 12:47 )  

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