Remember that time we went to war in Afghanistan in order to root out the militant Islamic fundamentalist group the Taliban? Wonder of wonders, that didn’t work so well, because it seems the Taliban is alive and well (though in a somewhat diminished capacity), and particularly prevalent in the Swat Valley region of Pakistan. That’s where, earlier this week, 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai — a prominent and outspoken activist on behalf of girls’ education — was attacked by Taliban forces, shot twice, and left to die.
Yousafzai was shot in the head and the neck and is currently in critical condition. Reports say she is being airlifted out of the country to receive medical care, but is still unconscious. Two other girls were also seriously injured in the shooting. Yousafzai was attacked because, claims the Taliban, she has assisted in opening a “new chapter in obscenity.” The Taliban’s actions against Yousafzai, and its general crackdown against female education in Swat are a stark reminder that the rights and lives of women and girls are still very much in danger around the world. (And this is why I personally can’t stand it when people say that there is no need for feminism anymore, but anyway!)
The Taliban took de facto control of the Swat Valley in 2007, though they were official ejected from the area in 2009. It’s clear, though, that they still have a stronghold in the region.
1. Malala has the support of her family, especially her father. Malala’s father Ziauddin runs a school for girls, and in 2009, his school was shut down by Taliban forces. Her father hopes that she will one day become a politician.
2. Malala wrote an anonymous blog for the BBC documenting her experiences as a school girl under Taliban rule. In 2009, at just 11-years-0ld, her “Diary of a Pakistani School Girl” resulted in a nomination for the 2011 KidsRights Foundation’s International Children’s Peace Prize. She didn’t win, but was later awarded Pakistan’s first-ever National Peace Award.
3. She and her father were also the subjects of a 2009 New York Times documentary. Filmmaker Adam Ellick documented the lives of Malala and her family on the eve of the Taliban’s decree that schools for girls be shut down. In “Class Dismissed,” we’re privy to the strong bond between father and daughter.
4. Even other militant groups are condemning the Taliban’s attack. Jamaat ud Dawa, part of the militant Lashkar-e-Taiba Islamicist group, said on its official Twitter: “Shameful, despicable, barbaric attempt. Curse b upon assassins and perpetrators.”
5. The Taliban says it’s not over. We know the Taliban is responsible for the shooting because they brazenly claimed responsibility for the attack. “[Yousafzai] has become a symbol of Western culture in the area; she was openly propagating it,” said Taliban spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan. Ehsan also claimed that if Yousufzai survived the attack the Taliban would try to kill her again. “Let this be a lesson.” Taliban representatives have also threatened to gun down her father.