Pakistani girl deserves asylum
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05
“On my way from school to home I heard a man saying ‘I will kill you.’ I hastened my pace and after a while I looked back if the man was still coming behind me. But to my utter relief he was talking on his mobile and must have been threatening someone else over the phone.”
That was an excerpt from a blog published on Jan. 3 on BBC Urdu online by 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, an eight grader from the Swat Valley of Pakistan.
On Oct. 9 Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban because she had “become a symbol of Western culture in the area; she was openly propagating it” by becoming an activist for children’s—particularly girl’s—education.
Yousafzai survived the attack, but will now have to live in fear of the Taliban probably for the rest of her life.
In many ways I’m reminded of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali activist who was able to receive political asylum from the Netherlands after she fled an arranged marriage and then was able to go into hiding after she published a book titled “Submission,” which also made her a target of the Taliban because of her criticism of how women are treated in Islam (the Taliban was successful in murdering Theo Van Gogh, the director of the film adaptation of her book).
This is also similar to the case of the Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, who escaped illegal house arrest for speaking against forced abortions and sterilizations to meet China’s one child policy.
Guangcheng was able to escape China by receiving a student visa from New York University to study law. Now he lives in the United States and he and his family are safe.
So my point is, what if the U.S.—or another country—did this for Yousafzai and her family? A lot of Americans would hesitate to support U.S. involvement in foreign affairs, but I—and I’m sure plenty of others—feel that this young girl and her family deserve protection for everything she has done and everything she stands for.
By age 11 this girl was writing a blog for BBC, last year she won a national peace prize and later she began a fund to help educate young girls. She realized that education was the key to growth and prosperity and kept fighting for it despite death threats from the Taliban.
Yousafzai showed more bravery than the entire Pakistani government and they themselves realize that. That is why they are offering a reward for the people responsible for the shooting.
So many Pakistani people are gathering together to protest the Taliban and extremism altogether, but will that really be enough to protect Yousafzai from people who are so extreme that they are willing to shoot down a child?
They have already stated that they would try to kill her again if she survives.
Maybe Yousafzai would turn down help from a foreign country and feels her place is with the people she risked so much to provide opportunity for, but she should still be given the option.
An editorial published by the New York Times on Oct. 10 states it perfectly: “If Pakistan has a future, it is embodied in Malala Yousafzai… The murderous violence against one girl was committed against the whole of Pakistani society. The Taliban cannot be allowed to win this vicious campaign against girls, learning and tolerance. Otherwise, there is no future for that nation.”
I hope this serves as a wake-up call for the Middle East. The West cannot be the only one fighting terrorism anymore. Sri Lanka was able to defeat the Tamil Tigers, another notorious terrorist group, in 2009, now Pakistan has the motivation—and the obvious need—to defeat the Taliban in their country.
Jasmine Aguilera may be reached at email@example.com.