Malala calls for peace talks with Taliban

Speak up, speak out: Malala opening the new library in her adopted city, Birmingham © Getty Images

The young Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban one year ago has broadened her campaigning from educating girls to bringing peace to her country: her method is dialogue.

Malala Yousafzai was never an ordinary child. Precociously intelligent, she wanted to become a doctor. But when she was only 11, the Taliban took control of the Swat valley, the region of Pakistan in which she lived. Malala began to blog about their atrocities and rail against their ban on education for girls.

But October 9th 2012 catapulted her into the international limelight: one year ago the Taliban decided to silence Malala’s campaign for girls’ education by shooting the 15-year-old as she returned from school with a friend. The bullet smashed through her skull and grazed her brain, but local medics were able to save her life. Then she was flown to the UK, where doctors achieved an extraordinary reconstruction of her face and nurses marvelled at her thirst to get back to her books.

Malala was never portrayed as just a victim: it is her dignified determination to continue speaking out that has made her the figurehead for global campaigns to ensure access to schooling for girls around the world. In July she addressed the United Nations General Assembly on her 16th birthday. A few weeks ago she spoke again about the power of learning as she opened the new library in Birmingham, the city in which she and her family have now settled.

But Malala has now chosen to broaden her campaign, calling for a new push for peace in Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan.

‘The best way to solve problems and to fight against war is through dialogue,’ Malala told the BBC. She is calling for efforts from Western countries, especially America, to restart talks with the Taliban. Her eloquence and commitment have led to calls for Malala to be awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. But her enemies are still determined to end her campaigning.

‘She was against Islam and we tried to kill her,’ said a member of the Pakistani Taliban this week. ‘And if we get a chance again we will definitely try to kill her, and we will feel proud killing her.’

Others are dubious. Even after the attack on Malala caused such an international outcry, the Taliban have continued to attack schools in shootings and bombings. They still want to disrupt or prevent the education of thousands of other children like Malala. Attempting to reason with such people would be wrong.

Battling for peace

Malala sees her new message as closely linked to the education campaign: ‘The only thing that can fight against terrorism is education,’ she said this week.

To some, it is inspiring that this young girl can feel anything other than revulsion for the people who tried – and would try again – to kill her. What is the point of making Malala an international heroine if we don’t heed her advice?

You Decide

  1. Should Malala be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize?
  2. ‘Why are the Taliban militants so scared of a girl carrying a book?’ So asks Sarah Brown, founder of the children’s charity PiggyBankKids, and wife of the former prime minister. Can you answer her question?

Activities

  1. Watch the video footage of Malala’s speech to the UN, then write a 200 word newspaper report on her message.
  2. ‘Killing people, torturing people and flogging people… it’s totally against Islam. They are misusing the name of Islam.’ Investigate Malala’s claim.

Some People Say...

“To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.’Winston Churchill”

What do you think?

Q & A

Why would anyone object to Malala winning the peace prize?
Good question. She seems so clearly to be a fantastic role model for girls, to be changing people’s minds and focusing international attention on a host of issues that need addressing. But some people worry that it might blight her life and career.
How could it do that?
Well, they say the best way to prove the importance of education is to get on with your studies: if Malala originally wanted to become a doctor, maybe she should be allowed to achieve that ambition. Some commentators have even accused campaigners of ‘bandwagon-jumping’ and not thinking sufficiently about what is good for Malala herself. For any young person, it is important to keep prioritising what will stand you in good stead all your life.

Word Watch

Taliban
Until the US and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001, this hardline Islamist group had formed the government of that country. It still offers violent resistance to the remaining international troops and to the new Afghan government’s soldiers 12 years later. In the Swat valley of neighbouring Pakistan, the Taliban was in control until 2009, when government troops drove the militants out.
Swat valley
This area of northern Pakistan, in the Hindu Kush, is the scene of near-constant fighting between Pakistan’s army and the Taliban. The Taliban has been deprived of control in the region, but still disrupts daily life and carries out terrorist attacks on schools.
Birmingham
England’s second city, Birmingham is home to over 140,000 people of Pakistani origin, according to the 2011 census.

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