Published for The Washington Post, October 11, 2012
On Tuesday afternoon, Malala Yousafzai was a 14-year-old girl riding home on a school bus. Now, after a masked gunman apparently boarded her bus, asked for her by name and shot her in the head and neck, she is fighting for her life. Malala was targeted by the Pakistani Taliban because for the past three years she has spoken out for the rights of all girls to become educated. After this despicable shooting, a Taliban spokesman said that his organization considers Malala’s crusade for education rights an “obscenity” and accused her of “propagating” Western culture. If she survives, the group promises to try again to kill her.
Eleven years ago, America awoke to the barbaric mind-set of the Taliban. Its regime in Afghanistan was dedicated in part to the brutal repression and abject subjugation of women. Women were not allowed to work or attend school. Taliban religious police patrolled the streets, beating women who might venture out alone, who were not dressed “properly” or who dared to laugh out loud. Women could not wear shoes that made too much noise, and their fingernails were ripped out for the “crime” of wearing nail polish.