LONDON: The Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousufzai who was shot in the head by the Taliban has been named The Times “Young Person of the Year” for her heroism “not only beyond her years but almost beyond belief”.
Malala is currently being treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham for the wounds caused after Taliban attacked her in her village near Swat. She shot to fame in 2009 when she became an eloquent advocate of education for girls and opposed Taliban for imposing restrictions on girls’ education.
Ziauddin Yousufzai, Malala’s father, welcomed the decision of the influential newspaper but said that the accolade belongs to every Pakistani child who wants to learn education and better their lives. Ziauddin told The News in a conversation over phone from Birmingham: “All the awards that have been given to Malala belong to Pakistani students who are determined to get education and to make Pakistan a democratic and educated country.
Malala fought for them all and all of them are part of the struggle for rights of their fellow citizens. All of them deserve tribute and encouragement as well as practical support of the world to have educational opportunities.”
The Times said in a leading article that it had decided to make her “Young Person of the Year” because unlike her assailants she has no weapons but words. It said that Malala decided to stand up when Taliban had already killed hundreds of people, instituted public executions, battled Pakistan army, bombed and burnt girls’ schools and destroyed around 150 educational institutions in 2008 alone.
Their aim, said The Times, was to “enslave women not only by confining them physically to the home but also by closing to them the life of the mind”.
As the Taliban retreated, the young girl became a focus for women emancipation through the power of learning and became a rallying figure for every Pakistani who cares for democracy and rights of Pakistani citizens. It is precisely for her strong vocal opposition to the Taliban atrocities that she was targeted by the extremists.
Malala reported these atrocities through her anonymous blog for the BBC. “She embodied the spirit of resistance to violence and obscurantism.” The Times said that when fired upon, Malala survived by extraordinary chance and inspired international revulsion. “She has won much acclaim for her stand and her cause – but, even so, not enough. She is not only an exponent of the vital cause of female education and an exemplar of personal heroism but also represents the values of the enlightenment as it contends with barbarism. For insisting on the right of girls to learn and to better themselves, Malala demonstrates more than simple goodwill. She stands for the power of an idea, of the resilience of the human spirit against totalitarianism.”
The paper said that Malala expects no heroics from anyone else as only last week she asked the government of Pakistan to rescind a decision to name a school after her, when its pupils protested that they would themselves become targets for the Taliban. “But the least that she is entitled to, and can reasonably expect, is solidarity as well as admiration.”
The paper said that this shows Malala insisting on dealing with reality however depressing rather than the specious symbolism preferred by so many who seek to use her name.