Teen Education Rights Activist Gunned Down by Pakistani Taliban

by Diana Denza

“Where I live, there are some people who want to stop educating girls through guns,” the father of Pakistani education rights activist Malala Yousafzai told The New York Times in a documentary titled ‘Class Dismissed.’

“I want to get my education and I want to become a doctor,” she added in the 2009 feature.

But this Tuesday, the National Peace Award for Youth recipient, esteemed BBC blogger, and two-time Times documentary star paid a high price for her bravery. According to Al Jazeera, the now 14-year-old was riding the bus home from school when masked men held up the vehicle and shot her in the head and neck.

The school-run bus in Mingora was filled with students, and two of Yusafzai’s classmates suffered minor injuries, reported the Times. Luckily for the outspoken activist, doctors in Pakistan have indicated that the bullet just missed entering her brain. She remains in critical condition and her attackers have reportedly been identified.

Last year, the teen appeared in a BBC news report to speak about the dangers of being a schoolgirl in Pakistan. She read an excerpt from the anonymous diary she had been keeping since 2009 for BBC Urdu.

“I was very much scared because the Taliban announced yesterday that girls should stop going to schools,” she read (via Al Jazeera).”Today our head teacher told the school assembly that school uniform is no longer compulsory and from tomorrow onwards, girls should come in their normal dresses. Out of 27, only 11 girls attended the school today.”

According to the Times, the Yusafzai family has previously been targeted by the Pakistani Taliban. In the face of their decree that girls not be educated, Mr. Yusafzai helmed a school doing just that. He was soon forced to leave town.

Meanwhile, the young Yusafzai remains a target for the Taliban. A spokesman for the extremist group, Ehsanullah Ehsan, told the newspaper of record that members would continue their efforts to murder the teen as “a lesson” for female rights activists.

But even in the face of mortal danger, Ahmed Shah Yousafzai, the girl’s uncle, explained to Al Jazeera that his niece has no plans of backing down. “She always raises her voice in favor of girl’s education, and she was going to establish a foundation named after her name – Malala Education Foundation –  and she wanted to work for those children who are not able to go to the school,” he said. 

Image courtesy of The New York Times. 

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