Saturday, October 11, 2014

When Bullets Fail…

Exactly two years ago, to the day, I introduced you to the bravest girl in the world. I wrote:

“Today, I want to tell you about the bravest girl in the world. She doesn't fight demons or slay dragons. Fourteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai fights for ideas like freedom and education. She doesn't hate school like many American kids; she fought to be allowed to go to school. For years, the Taliban controlled her village of Swat Valley in Pakistan and strictly forbade girls from attending school... under penalty of death.”

When Malala was only 11, and the Taliban was blowing up more than 150 schools, she diarised the Taliban’s atrocities, like a modern-day Anne Frank, and the BBC republished her blog accounts pseudonymously to the world. This did not go over well with the cutthroat slime terrorizing Pakistan and Afghanistan. Taliban gunmen boarded her school bus. They asked which girl was Malala Yousafzai. The students pointed her out. They watched, as a gunman aimed his pistol at her head and fired.

A Taliban spokesman justified their cowardly act of terrorism: “She considers President Obama as her ideal leader. Malala is the symbol of the infidels and obscenity.” They had employed the only two weapons at their disposal: fear and death. The Taliban believed Malala’s story, and the threat it posed to them, had ended. They were wrong. Malala’s story had just begun.

Malala Yousafzai knew this was her reality, the world she lived in, the world in which she was growing up, and the childhood that would shape her life. Yet, she spoke out -- bravely, loudly, and clearly. Malala knew freedom isn't free -- it's earned. So she stood up for the right of girls to receive an education, amid rising fundamentalism, when few Pakistani adults would do so. In retaliation, the Taliban sought to send a clear message of intimidation by shooting her on a school bus. They failed. She survived. Malala, the bravest girl in the world, continued to write, even from her hospital bed, unintimidated by these murderous scum.

Today, exactly two years later, the world acknowledged it had heard Malala, as she became, at 17, the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Appropriately, she was given the news while in her chemistry class, at school, in Birmingham, England, where she now resides. Two years ago, I predicted Malala would one day return to Pakistan, displaying her same spirit, pluck, and confidence, along with a newfound education, to lead her country from the Middle Ages into the 21st century. While I may not live long enough to see it come to pass, I can envision this young girl growing up to become the woman who enables all the girls of her native Pakistan to pursue their educations, not as refugees in a foreign land, but as equal citizens in their own country where they can learn whatever they want and become whomever they wish to be.

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