Young Pakistani activist inspires DePaul students
Published: Saturday, October 27, 2012
Updated: Saturday, October 27, 2012 16:10
Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old activist from Pakistan, just wanted to get an education. She spoke out against the Pakistani Taliban that was prohibiting girls' education by writing diary entries to the BBC’s Urdu (which features Urdu language specific content) under a pseudonym.
Her identity emerged after the Taliban was driven out of her northwestern Pakistan village of Swat Valley, but then the Taliban began to target her. On Oct. 9, masked Taliban gunmen boarded Yousefzai’s school bus, identified her and shot her in the head.
Doctors in Pakistan immediately removed the bullet that managed to miss her brain, giving her a good chance at recovery. A medical helicopter then transferred her to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England.
In a media briefing held last week, Dr. Dave Rosser, the medical director of the hospital, said that Yousafzai was able to stand up and communicate by writing notes.
As she recovers from her injuries, so does the rest of her country, those around the world and those here at DePaul.
“Everyone on Facebook was putting up statuses for her, even Pakistani celebrities,” said Sufyan Ahmed, president of DePaul’s Pakistani Student Association (PSA). “Everyone is proud of what she has achieved at such a young age; she has become an icon.”
PSA will have an Eid Dinner, Oct. 30, to celebrate the end of Ramadan. As a response to the news about Yousafzai, PSA will discuss starting a fundraiser to raise money for schools in Pakistan that educate girls for free.
Yousafzai has reached icon status internationally. As her story makes international headlines, she has become the face of the girls’ education movement.
“What is important to bring to light about this is that Yousafzai is the face of the movement – not the movement itself. Muslim women have been educated for centuries who have served as brilliant scholars,” said Salma Ghalyoun, a member of DePaul’s United Muslims Moving Forward (UMMA).
“The inability to go to school in the Swat Valley was due to the presence of the Taliban and their edict against educating women, not because of some Islamic doctrine.”
The Sunday following the shooting, tens of thousands of Pakistani residents in Karachi rallied together to support and pray for Yousafzai. The supporters condemned this act of terrorism, holding up signs that said, “Shame on you, Taliban.”
The New Yorker reported that a Pakistani Taliban spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, claimed responsibility and threatened to attack her again.
“She was pro-West,” said Ehsan. “She was speaking against the Taliban and she was calling President Obama her idol.”
Laila Farah, DePaul women’s and gender studies professor, explains that Yousefzai did not want to adopt Western means of education.
“She sought to work within her cultural context in order to affect the greatest change possible within the socio-cultural and religious frameworks in which she lives,” said Farah. “Malala’s efforts will continue to resonate with others. She is our best example, albeit a wounded one.”
As a worldwide conversation on girl’s access to education begins to spread over the Internet and media, Farah explains real education reform will take many more years.
“It will take much longer in any war-torn zone, whether led by fundamentalists or not,” said Farah. “The Taliban are still at war, both with those in their country who do not support them, as well as with the Western world in general. As long as chaos reigns, so will they, and so education reform will be hindered exponentially. ”
Despite the hard realities of making education reform possible, people have been inspired by the young activist and are making efforts to help her in making her education dreams come true.
Gordon Brown, UN special envoy for Global Education, has declared Nov. 10, global day of action for Yousafzai and 32 million more girls. He will announce a new foundation in honor of Yousefzai.
Before the shooting, Yousefzai was working to start a foundation to campaign for the 32 million girls around the world who were not in school.