Let us indeed celebrate Malala, but don’t forget the fate of Saudi Arabia’s women
Opinion: No Western country has called Saudis or Bahrainis to account over their repression
Pakistani schoolchildren hold a handwritten sign during a special class to commemorate the anniversary of Malala Yousufzai’s shooting at a school in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, today. Photograph: AP
A year ago yesterday the Taliban shot 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the head in Mingora in the Swat Valley of Pakistan because she had spoken up for the right of girls to go to school. Tomorrow, it is widely expected she will be announced as the 2013 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Some of us had entertained hopes that this year’s prize would go to Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning or Julian Assange – or to all three jointly – for having done humanity a huge favour by, at great risk to themselves, exposing the massive contempt of major powers for people’s right to know what’s being done in their name: the prime purpose of the Prism and Tempora surveillance systems being to facilitate preparations for wars for which there is no mandate and all manner of other nefarious practices.
Still, nobody can question the heroic contribution Malala has made to campaigns for the rights of girls and women around the world and thereby to decency in society and a diminution in the drive to war. It is hardly her fault at her age that she fell in with the wrong crowd after arriving in the West. She was the star of last month’s New York meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, founded in honour of the man who in 1998 launched a missile attack on Sudan to divert attention from a semen stain on an intern’s frock.
Who can doubt – especially if she wins the prize tomorrow– that Malala will be stalked wherever she goes by warmonger Tony Blair, waiting for his moment to ponce.
The recognition which it is widely assumed Malala will be given should encourage a closer look at the position of girls and women in countries with some ideological similarity to Pakistan.
The Saudi Arabian regime of King Abdullah bin al-‘Aziz Al Saud denies human rights to nine million women and girls, eight million foreign workers and two million Shias. Citizens face arbitrary arrest and internment and are routinely tortured in prisons. Women are banned from driving or from travelling without the permission of their husband or another male relative. It is illegal to try to form a political party or trade union. Only Muslims are entitled to worship their god.
Four men have recently had one foot and one hand amputated for stealing from a supermarket. Journalists have been lashed until their bones protrude for writing articles construed as critical of the Abdullah regime.
On January 9th this year, Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan domestic worker, was beheaded for killing a four-month-old baby in her care. The infant had died from lack of oxygen. No post-mortem was carried out. Riazana vehemently denied being responsible for the baby stopping breathing. She had been aged 17 – a year older than Malala – at the time it all happened.