Posted in book review

Girl who was shot by the Taliban

Book Title: I am Malala

Author: Malala Yousafzai

Genre: Memoir, inspirational, non fiction

Setting: Pakistan

Pages: Hard copy 327

Published: 8th October 2013

My rate on GR: 4.8/5

“Let us pick our books and our pens. They are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” Malala’s address at the UN on her sixteenth birthday.

9th October 2012, the Taliban attacked a school bus with girls onboard. He asked for Malala and shot her. In the process he shot two other girls. All survived but Malala’s journey to healing was different. The bullet had entered the side of her eye where there was a scar, travelled eighteen inches down to her left shoulder and stopped there. It snatched her of her smile, hearing, vision, home and friends. She underwent titanium cranioplasty where her head was fitted with screws to protect the brain as it acted as the skull while her hearing was rescued with the aid of a cochlear implant inside her head near the ear. All these was done at Queen Elizabeth hospital at Birmingham where she was flown with the help of supporters from all over the world who were impressed by her works at Pakistan. The UAE prince even donated his private jet which had its own on board hospital to fly her to England. The world watched, prayed, gift cards were sent, aid to pay her hospital bills were offered, adoption offers were presented to even marriage proposals. From well-known musicians, to famous actors and actresses and high end diplomats; she had made her mark. Some like me referred to her then as ‘the girl shot by the Taliban,’ but she doesn’t want to be known as that. Rather call her “the girl who fought for education.” After the incident together with her parents and siblings, they became residents at Birmingham with the aid of the England and Pakistan governments. She hopes one day she will go back home to Swat and fulfill her dreams. The Taliban spoke out, reached to her via a letter and said they would forgive her if she came back to Pakistan, wore a Burqa and went to a madrasa.

So who is Malala?

Would you stand up against a terrorist group? Would you rebel customs and traditions?

Education, girls and the Taliban. These three ingredients were what made Malala speak up as early as possible. An activist in the making she followed in the footsteps of her father who started the Khushal School to educate girls. Born in a poverty struck homestead on 12th July 1997 from the tribe of Pashtuns she was named after Malalai of Maiwand, the greatest heroine of Afghanistan. From her naming to the way she came to this world, everything seemed strange. Grief and sadness seemed attached to her.

Jani mun, as her father called her, guides a reader through the beauty, history and ruling of Pakistan. In what is now a war torn area, the sceneries are one to make a wander luster visit the land. She is so much aware of her country to how it was once a Buddhist Kingdom where Hindus and Jews dominated but that was wiped off history books to showcase that Islam was superior. She got inspiration from leaders who fostered for equality and peace. She digs deeper into codes of conduct, customs and practices that made women vulnerable in her culture. For example women not voting, girls not allowed to be educated, girls been given to another tribe to resolve feud, women not opening bank accounts without a man’s permission, raped victims been sentenced because they couldn’t produce male witnesses to prove it was a crime, to girls whose society had already marked that been a doctor or teacher was final and anything else was not acceptable.

Her father Ziauddin, was a talented speaker, debater who involved himself in politics back at college. This saw him start a school, receive death threats, make enemies and his closest allies shot by the Taliban. He rose to be president of the Global Peace Council, spokesperson of the council of elders and president of the Swat Association of Private Schools. It was at his school that Malala topped her classes, where she won in various competitions and had many accolades to her name. She got recognition from the BBC when she wrote a diary about life under the Taliban and used Gul Makai as her pseudonym.

Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was once a peaceful place to be in till 9/11 happened and everything changed. They were living right at the epicenter. Osama Bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader was living in Kandahar when the attack on the World Trade Center happened and the Americans sent troops to Afghanistan to catch him and overthrow the Taliban. However, Bin Laden had gone to live at the Swat Valley taking advantage of the Pashtunwali hospitality code. Their valley became the valley of death when the Taliban would radicalize young boys and men. They introduced new rules and made life a living misery. They became the enemy of fine arts, culture and history.

As a reader you get a glimpse of how the Islam religion was misinterpreted by Taliban officials to brainwash citizens who gave up their all to receive status and power. Two extremes: secularism and socialism on one side, and militant Islam on the other brought confusion on the land. How suicide bombers and State sanctioned terrorists were born. Calamities such as earthquakes and floods also hit their valley making them more vulnerable. Under the Barrack Obama tenure, troops started coming to the valley and war intensified making Malala and her family run for safety. They were now IDPs till the war ended in 2009.

Been an advocate for girls’ education saw Pisho’s (her mum called her so) name forwarded by Desmond Tutu of South Africa to be a nominee in the International Peace prize for KidsRights. She also participated in education galas where she had amassed enough million rupees that she donated to help in her father’s school that had been destroyed by the war. She was gaining attention left, right and center to schools been named in her honor but the Taliban had had enough. They were back this time to kill two women; Shad Begum an activist and her. Then the worst happened on that fateful October 2012.

She believes God gave her a second life. Although she misses home, she started the Malala Fund whose mission is to educate girls and empower them to change their lives and communities. To give girls this chance the Fund aspires “to invest in efforts that empower local communities, develop innovative solutions that build upon traditional approaches, and deliver not just basic literacy but the tools, ideas and networks that can help girls find their voice and create a better tomorrow.”

The book is an eye opener to the life lived in Pakistan and Afghanistan under different rulers to the Taliban and now the new government. Despite its terror there is beauty bestowed on these lands for those who do not see terror as a hindrance. Malala spices the book with humor, horror, anger, care and love to her country, her life and to those who came to her aid on the verge of death. She also cracks us up when she stole her friend’s jewelry to when she got her first love letter plus the numerous jealous girl fights with her best friend. During her days at Queens’s hospital, her school back home reserved her class seat as they believed she was coming back. More so, her picture section at the end of this well written book shows her family, friends and her life in a simple yet captivating manner.

What I would like to know is that it has now been six years since the book was published, did she ever return to visit Pakistan in the course of these years. Has she step foot again?