Apr 2015 - I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And Was Shot By the Taliban - Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

 
I am Malala, written by Malala herself in collaboration with Christina Lamb recounts the story of the girl who became recognized worldwide when she was, shot by the Taliban, on October 9th 2012. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. The book begins with Malala being born within a Pashtun family, and narrates how her father saw “something different” about her. He became a proud father from the beginning despite the traditional negative sentiments of the Pashtuns having their first born being daughters instead of sons. As if he knew that Malala would become someone important, he named his daughter after Malalai of Maiwand, a brave heroine of Afghanistan. Malala corresponds to his sentiments and is proud of her father, admiring him deeply and praising him extensively throughout the book.  From his humble beginnings, he managed to get an education and fulfilled his dream of building and managing a school. Furthermore, he became a recognized member of his
community as an advocate for educationand activist of many causes. He was alsoknown for his rather progressive views of Islam. 
 
The writers make a great effort in providing insights into the Pashtun culture, beliefs and values. Details of the history of Malala’s homeland the Swat Valley, Pakistan and bordering Afghanistan are provided in abundance succeeding at setting the background for the story.
 
Despite the turbulent political environment that has characterized Pakistan’s history, and the known Soviet Invasion and subsequent Taliban reign in Afghanistan, the Swat remained a relatively calm place to live and study in, then 9/11 completely changed the panorama of the valley, as the whole region was pivotal in the anti-terrorism war. While Pakistan’s government conveniently aligned itself with the Americans and their allies, the Jihadist movement became even more radical. Strengthening after America started drone attacks on Pakistani soil in 2004.  With no relevant governmental presence in the Swat valley, the Talibans gained power and exercised it in many ways. After the siege of the Red Mosque in Islamabad in 2007 the Swat Taliban declared war on the Pakistani Government.   Soon direct confrontation developed in the Valley. Bomb attacks against government schools and the police took place daily. Violence rampaged and private schools became a war objective as well. Malala’s father was a peace activist and Malala, being his follower, then became a protagonist in her own right. She was eleven when she realized that the media needed interviews to denounce the school attacks in the Swat, she knew a girl would have a great impact and she had the advantage of having a father who would support her endeavors. She and her father gave interviews through different media channels, but despite their efforts, more than 400 schools were blasted by the end of 2008. The Taliban forbade girls to attend schools; it was then that Malala volunteered in early 2009 to write a personal diary for a BBC blog. She did it under the pseudonym of Gul Makai to protect her identity. She participated in the New York Times documentary, Class Dismissed in Swat Valley.  Both of the journalistic documents had resonance worldwide.
 
The Taliban rethought their ban and allowed girls under ten to attend school. Malala and her classmates pretended to be younger. A peace treaty was signed with the provincial government, Sharia Law would be imposed and the militants would stop fighting. The Americans were outraged at the Provincial Government seemingly giving up. Girls could attend schools as long as they were covered. Instead of peace, the empowered Taliban brought even more violence to the Swat Valley. They announced Islamabad was next. In May that year the army launched the operation “True Path” to banish the Taliban from the Swat, this lead to the largest exodus in Pashtun history. It was during this time that Malala asked the American Ambassador Richard Holbrooke to help girls get an education. Three months after the operation started, the government announced the Swat was safe enough to come back, however most of the Taliban leadership was still at large and soon it was evident that the Taliban had never really left.
 
In May 2011, the Americans, in Abbottabad, killed Osama bin Laden during a secret operation to the embarrassment of the Pakistani government. By the end of that same year Malala was awarded the first ever Pakistani National Peace Prize. In January 2012, the Sindh government announced they were renaming a school in Malala’s honor. Along with national recognition came also the attention and death threats from the Taliban. On October 9th 2012 Malala was shot by the Taliban.  Her life was spared.  She was flown to Birmingham after being on the brink of death and under went multiple surgeries. Malala recovered and received many awards from around the world. She addressed the United Nations on her birthday in 2013 and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the first time that year. She received support messages from all over the world except from Pakistan; she instead received accusations of looking for luxury abroad and other sentiments of that sort.  Malala wants to go back to her country, but her father convinced her to continue gathering the knowledge she needs to use her words powerfully. Malala’s dream continues to be education for every boy and girl. “To see each and every human being with a smile of happiness” is her wish.
 
As it is usually the case, we all came to the group meeting from different thinking corners, we had a vivid and enlightening discussion. We especially considered the role that the media played and continues to play in Malala’s case, and wondered about her future as an activist. As Fatima Buttho put it in her review of Malala’s memoir for the Guardian on October 2013: “Yet, even as Malala says she does not hate the man who shot her, here in Pakistan anger towards this ambitious young campaigner is as strong as ever. Amid the bile, there is a genuine concern that this extraordinary girl's courageous and articulate message will be colonised by one power or other for its own insidious agendas. She is young and the forces around her are strong and often sinister when it comes to their designs on the global south. There is a reason we know Malala's story but not that of Noor Aziz, eight years old when killed by a drone strike in Pakistan; Zayda Ali Mohammed Nasser, dead at seven from a drone strike in Yemen; or Abeer Qassim Hamza al Janabi, the 14-year-old girl raped and set on fire by US troops in Mahmudiyah, Iraq. "I wasn't thinking these people were humans," one of the soldiers involved, Steven Green, said of his Iraqi victims.
 
It will always be more convenient for the West to paint itself as more righteous, more civilised, than the people they occupy and kill. But now, Malala's fight should be ours too – more inclusion of women, remembrance of the many voiceless and unsung Malalas, and education for all.”
 
Submitted by Alejandra Barbosa
 
Book Group 1