Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistanian girl from Swat valley, first made her voice heard when she wrote for BBC Urdu about what life was like under the Taliban. She was just 11 years old. Her efforts were part of what ousted the Taliban in 2009. But she was made painfully aware of their persisting threat when her bus was pulled over on October 9 and a member of the Taliban shot her in the head.
Malala and her friends were coming home on a school bus after school and happened to be singing traditional Pasthun folk songs. “With a drop of my sweetheart’s blood, Shed to defend the motherland, I will put a beauty spot on my forehead, Such would put to shame the rose of the garden,” a song made famous for Malalai, whom Malala was named after, a 19th century national folk hero who fought the British troops.
With that for setting, the bus was stopped by Taliban members hooded, bearded, and carrying guns.
“They stopped our school van,” said Malala’s friend, Shazia, who was also injured. “They were riding on a bike. The masked man kept pointing guns at us and the other was shouting ‘where is Malala?!’ I froze with a flashback to the old dark days: I remembered the headless bodies, the slaughtering of rivals — merely on dissent or slightest doubt of spying — the grotesque violence.”
When the Taliban member recognized Malala, he shot her twice at point blank range, once in the head and once in the neck. She was rushed to the hospital in critical condition and had the bullet removed from her head.
Malala had told a writer for the Christian Science Monitor that when she first started writing she “Wanted to scream, shout, and tell the whole world what we were going through. But it was not possible. The Taliban would have killed me, my father, my whole family. I would have died without leaving any mark. So I chose to write with a different name. And it worked, as my valley has been freed.”
That the Taliban have resorted to murdering — or attempting to murder — young girls to fight their horror of female education does not speak well of them. The Taliban militant had explained his motive in these terms: “Which one of you is Malala? Speak up, otherwise I will shoot you all. She is propagating against the soldiers of Allah, the Taliban. She must be punished,” and they criticized her for propagating Western values (such as female education).
But women like Malala cannot be silenced with violence and brutality; the truth and purity of their message can’t be gunned down, out-shouted, or bullied away. Her suffering only intensifies her message.