14-Year-Old Pakistani Girl Malala Yousufzai Shot By The Taliban For Being a Feminist Blogger Meghan O'Keefe

Yesterday in Pakistan, 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck by a member of the Taliban while she was sitting on her school bus. Two others were also injured in the shooting.

Malala wasn’t shot randomly, though. The Taliban specifically targeted her because she is famous in Pakistan as a feminist blogger. In 2009, she wrote under the pseudonym Gul Makai (or “Face like a Flower”) about her fears about the Taliban’s attempted crackdowns on education and civil liberties for BBC Urdu’s blogs. (You can check out some of her writing here). Once identified, she was praised by Pakistan’s Prime Minister for speaking so eloquently and honestly on behalf of women’s rights and was awarded Pakistan’s very first Peace Prize.

Her work didn’t just attract admirers, however, but also enemies.

According to the Taliban’s spokesperson – who confirmed that the group was responsible for the shooting – Malala was targeted on their hit lists because in his (translated) words, “She was pro-West, she was speaking against the Taliban and she was calling President Obama her ideal leader… She was young but she was promoting Western culture in Pashtun areas.”

Essentially, her “crime” was having a differing opinion and voicing it on the internet.

I think it should go without saying that one of the greatest thing about being a human being is that we are all individuals. We are born with our own minds. We have our own unique life experiences that define who we are. We have our own individual opinions on life based on those experiences. To be human is to have opinions, thoughts, ideas and passions that belong to no one else but yourself. Some people define this sacred individuality as a soul.

To say that any person should be denied the right to voice his or her opinions based on race, age, class, religion or gender is pretty much the same as saying you don’t consider that they’re human. Opinions exist naturally in all human beings. You can’t stop it.

Malala’s opinion needed to be silenced by the Taliban not only because it was a female’s opinion, but also because her opinion threatened the Taliban’s power by actively encouraging other men and women to think against them. She felt very strongly that women deserve an education. Learning only promotes new and original thought in people. To limit education is to limit minds, and to limit a mind is to limit a human being’s ability to be human.

The political leaders who want to squelch education in the masses and amongst minorities historically tend to be the same political leaders who want to lord over those masses and minorities without any dissenting voices. Leaders who restrict access to education and freedom of expression tend to be dictators and thugs.

Malala was shot because she dared to voice her dissenting opinion in an international forum. She dared to suggest not only that everyone was entitled to an opinion–but that she, a schoolgirl, had as much a right to criticize the government as any political or military leader. Just by blogging for the BBC she was defying the Taliban because she refused to be silent.

Maybe you’re thinking Malala’s shooting has nothing to do with you or maybe you disagree with her politics or maybe you’re thinking she was dumb to stand up to the Taliban in the first place or maybe you just want to see some nail art or maybe you want to point out that this sort of atrocity happens all the time in other parts of the world and it enrages you that we don’t recognize it.

The point is, Malala was shot because she believed that you have every right to think any of those things I just listed and that you have every right to voice them. You should voice them. And most importantly, you should voice them without fear.

Malala was afraid of Taliban retribution. She had to hide her books under her bed in case they stormed her house. She used a pen name. She wrote about how she was afraid they would come and do to her, well,  what they did.

Fear is the greatest tool that people have to silence each other.

I’m almost twice Malala’s age and I’m often afraid to publicly express my own opinions. Sometimes, even on this site–which I know is a warm and supportive community for female voices–I feel nervous about getting too political or controversial with my opinions. As women, we aren’t exactly encouraged to “stir the pot” unless that pot is filled with spaghetti sauce. Even in 21st century New York City, I sometimes keep my thoughts and opinions to myself because I’m afraid of verbal and physical retribution. I’m afraid that if I point out inequalities that I’ll be labeled a “whiner”. I’m worried if I verbally respond to a catcall, I’ll be physically or sexually assaulted.

I’m starting to realize that the fact that I feel afraid about expressing my point of view is a signal that I need to speak up. If you’re feeling afraid or nervous about expressing yourself, that is a sign that you’re being repressed.

It is imperative as women that we make our voices heard. And guess what? We won’t always agree with each other. In fact, because we are individual human beings and not just part of a great, perfect, feminine blob, we will always have dissenting opinions. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t voice them–nor should we voice them in a way that bullies others or causes our peers to fear expressing their own opinions. It means we have to have open dialogue with each other.

Malala believed that she was entitled to have open dialogue with the world and she–in my personal opinion–was absolutely right.

Be like Malala. Blog your beliefs. Scream from rooftops. Disturb the status quo. Make sure your voice is heard.

When you’re a woman in this world, having a unique voice is a rebellion in and of itself.

Don’t let anything silence you.

Be a rebellion.

Sources: The GuardianMashable.com and The New York Times. Featured image via The New York Times.

comments

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  1. posted in the wrong spot on the page… not to mention any names, @Bree Brouwer ;)

  2. >>Also, I think we should remember that we live in a time and country (writing from the U.S. here) where we are finally are allowed to openly speak our minds as women. The last part of your article makes it seem like this is still a radical new mindset when it clearly has not been the case for years.
    Re-read the article – it’s not about life in the US so who is this “we” you speak of? Your US-centric remarks are an insult to Malala’s brave sacrifice. The population of your country represents less than 5% of the world’s population. Only when you start to see yourself as part of a wider world will you be of some use to the world, including all the women still fighting to claim the rights you take for granted.

  3. This is so heartbreaking, to think that at 14 she was so brave to come out and say things like that. She seemed like a very intelligent and wonderful young girl, it’s disgusting what happened to her.

  4. just reading the title, I was outraged.

    She died cos she decided to speak her mind. That is very courageous.

  5. Malala is very brave, her country reminds me of Indonesia 20 years ago.. Go the hell Soeharto… I didn’t care and I always spoke whatever I wanted and always hurt lots of people in the end… I need more wisdom…

  6. Thank you for inspiring me to write my first “current events” blog about Malala. Thank you for the inspiration to not sit down. http://buttontobeans.blogspot.com/2012/10/malalas-dreams.html

  7. Thank you for voicing your opinion on this kind of repression we suffer, and only women but men too. Me myself couldn’t put it better :”To say that any person should be denied the right to voice his or her opinions … is pretty much the same as saying you don’t consider that they’re human. “

  8. This is beautiful. It saddens me to hear about such atrocities happening in the world. When I read about things like this it makes me think so much less of my fashion blog. Your article is beautifully written and I need to thank you as well for writing this for all of us to see.

  9. Thank you for putting an important story on your homepage. It’s the kind of news that won’t get reported on the main lines…

  10. Thanks for writing this. I appreciate the encouragement to voice our own opinions – but even moreso, I appreciate you shedding attention on this girl’s story on hellogiggles. She is SO brave for having spoken up the way she has. I’m glad to have the American bubble I live in opened from time to time with an article like this to real, raw struggles of other females.

  11. [Politics/ propagation? Will my post disappear, here?] Support human rights: Nobody’s rights should be taken away, (especially the right to live) by anyone; especially by a “government”, like the US. I do not appreciate my tax dollars used to kill children. “president” obama’s illegal drones/ targeting killing program are murdering children in Pakistan:?
    “Combat drones kill 176 children in Pakistan” ttp://www.easternecho.com/article/2012/09/combat-drones-kill-176-children-in-pakistan

    One of the attendees was a 16-year-old boy named Tariq Aziz, who had volunteered to learn photography to begin documenting drone strikes near his home. Within 72 hours of the meeting, Aziz was killed in a U.S. drone strike. His 12-year-old cousin was also killed in the attack. http://www.democracynow.org/2011/11/7/us_drone_kills_16_year_old

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  13. 14 years old and she has already lived a life more fulfilling than most of us. What are you planning to do tomorrow?

  14. I’ve honestly never felt so filled with words, yet speechless at the same time. I’m a 17 year old girl living in Ohio and I always take for granted the freedom I have to openly express myself. Even at my high school everyone’s generally pretty accepting of each other. So reading about this…an extremely brave and powerful teen girl who was shot because she publicly voiced her political worries and opinions?! I’m disgusted! This can’t be happening.
    Young girls being suppressed is just not acceptable. I’m not accepting this. I’m just not. Whether young girls are being suppressed in America or Pakistan or wherever, we’re all people living on the same planet. I’m not letting this go.
    Seriously, thank you so much for educating me on this. And I swear to Malala and all the other humans out there being suppressed, I will do whatever I can to help.
    Because I know I can help. Malala is proof that you should never underestimate the power passion, drive, anger, and a voice can have when it comes to changing the world. <3

  15. This is a perfect example for those who do not understand why there is a War On Terror, because so many people, including little girls, like Malala live in it everyday.
    This is a beautifully written article and for that I’m going make sure I share this and forward it as much as I can.

    • The mistreatment of Malala, or girls like her, while horrific, is no excuse for our “War on Terror”. It’s merely a justification of our actions abroad, and masquerades our true intentions- to protect our own interests. It’s sickening to me that people can read a story like this, and then turn around and pat themselves on the back for fighting a “War on Terror” which causes much more destruction and distress than positive change. It’s heart breaking to read news like Malala’s, but we should all be aware of what our female counterparts all over the world struggle with. However, we do them a disservice by using the news to encourage warfare.

  16. As an American girl from Pakistan, I am glad to see this article on HelloGiggles. My fellow Pakistani women that are making positive strides are finally getting some recognition. If you’re interested in my (similar) thoughts on this event, please check them out at http://onevoiceproject.wordpress.com. Thank you for writing about Malala Yousufzai and please keep her and her family in your thoughts and prayers.

  17. The Dixie Chicks were silenced when they were ashamed of being from the same state as George Bush Jr. when he ordered the bombing of Baghdad! Even in America, your opinion, if it doesn’t follow the popular speak will be targeted for silence.

  18. all comments from usa?
    never questioned why -jugoslawien,afganistan,iran,irak,egypt,afrika…???

  19. There are so many quotes of you I could just paint on my wall. Love it! Thanks for writing this, you’re very inspirational.

  20. Just a point since a couple of posts seem to indicate this young woman is dead. She is not. She is in the hospital, unconscious, after surgery.

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