Refusing to keep quiet despite all the threats
THE 14-YEAR-OLD Pakistani schoolgirl campaigner shot by the Taliban had defied threats for years, believing the good work she was doing for her community was her best protection, according to her father.
Malala Yousufzai’s father, Ziauddin Yousufzai, who ran a girls’ school, said his daughter had wanted to go into politics. He said that of all the things he loved about her, it was her fairness – her democratic ideals – that he loved the most.
Malala shot to fame at the age of 11 when she wrote a blog under a pen name for the BBC about living under the rule of the Pakistani Taliban.
Her home is in the Swat valley, a one-time tourist spot infiltrated by militants from Afghan border bases more than five years ago.
The militants, led by a firebrand young preacher, took over her valley through a mixture of violence, intimidation and the failure of the authorities to stand up to them.
Even after the military finally went into action with an offensive in 2009 that swept most of the militants from the valley, it remained a dangerous place.
Malala didn’t keep quiet. She campaigned for education for girls and later received Pakistan’s highest civilian prize. Her prominence came at a cost.
“We were being threatened. A couple of times, letters were thrown in our house, that Malala should stop doing what she is doing or the outcome will be very bad,” her father, sounding drained and despondent, said by telephone.
But despite the threats, he had turned down offers of protection from the security forces.
“We stayed away from that because she is a young female. The tradition here does not allow a female to have men close by.”
Malala had spent many nights awake because of gunfire, and had been forced to flee her home with her two younger brothers, walking past the headless bodies of those who had defied the Taliban.
Her parents also wanted her to have some chance of a normal childhood, her father said. Security in Swat had improved after the army had pushed back the Taliban in 2009.
“We did not want her to be carrying her school books surrounded by bodyguards. She would not have been able to receive education freely,” he
“I never imagined that this could happen because Malala is a young innocent girl. Whenever there were threats, relatives and friends would tell Malala to take care but Malala was never fearful. She would frequently say, ‘I am satisfied. I am doing good work for my people so nobody can do anything to me’.”
Recently, Malala had started
to organise a fund to make sure poor girls could go to school,
said Ahmed Shah, a family
friend and chairman of the Swat Private Schools Association.
He said the Taliban even printed threats against her in the newspaper. – (Reuters)