The week of October 7th, an attack on a 14-year-old Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, by the Taliban acted as a horrifying reminder of the presence of the Taliban in the Middle East.
Back in 2009, then-seventh grader Malala Yousafzai offered to write for the BBC Urdu about living under the thumb of the Taliban in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. Among her entries is a description of the efforts she would undertake in order to sneak to school. One entry describes Yousafzai going to school “in her favourite pink dress because the school uniform would draw the militants’ attention.” Yousafzai’s entries soon end as school closes for the winter. That winter, the Pakistani army started a military operation against the Taliban and ejected them from power within the country.
Despite the continuing threats from the Taliban over the years, Yousafzai continued to advocate for women’s right to education. “She knew she was risking her life, telling a reporter at one point that if the Taliban tried to kill her, ‘I’ll first say to them: ‘What you’re doing is wrong.'” On October 9th, a Taliban gunman who boarded her school bus shot Yousafzai along with two other girls.
The Taliban later issued a statement indicating that they believed Yousafzai’s actions to be promoting Western culture. Aside from advocating education for women, Yousafzai was also targeted for speaking out against the practices of the Taliban and for calling the US President Barack Obama her idol. The Taliban have promised that if Malala Yousafzai is to survive, they will finish the job.
This recent attack serves as a reminder of how dangerous of a presence the Taliban still has in many countries within the Middle East. In addition, it shows that the Taliban are still committed to preventing the education of young women.
Many years before Yousafzai was even born, research showed just how important an impact that educating girls can have on a developing nation. Educating women has led to economic growth both for a nation and families individually. Another trend indicates that many educated women tend to choose careers in healthcare and nutrition, thus giving back to their nation in effective ways. Not only that, but educated mothers are generally led to give birth at a later age and raise healthier children, lowering the rate of disease in their country. This notion of educating young women has caught fire in the international community and poses an enormous threat in the eyes of the Taliban.
With this devastating attack on Yousafzai, the international community sees the very real threat that the Taliban presents. It shows how brutal the group continues to be, as well as how much animosity they hold towards women and how far they will go to restrict the freedom of women and girls.
Moreover, it solidifies concerns regarding any potential Taliban resurgence once the US military exits Afghanistan in 2014.