Pakistan: Teenaged human rights defender goes to UK for treatment

Muslim Taliban terrorists tried to silence Malala Yousafzai by shooting her in the head. The 14-year-old girl survived but remains in guarded condition.


Having survived a gunshot wound to the head, 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai has been taken to the United Kingdom for further medical treatment. An outspoken defender of human rights, especially of women and girls, Malala was targeted by Taliban jihadi insurgents in Pakistan as she went to school last week. A classmate was also wounded in the attack. A Pakistani government spokesman said on October 15 that the girl will require prolonged care as she recovers both physically and emotionally from the trauma. An air ambulance provided by the United Arab Emirates left Islamabad on October 15 and was winging its way to the UK.  “The panel of doctors recommended that Malala be shifted abroad to a UK centre which has the capability to provide integrated care to children who have sustained severe injury,” said the spokesman in a statement. In the attack, a bullet or fragment entered Yousufzai's head and then exited, leaving behind considerable damage. 

Yousufzai has become a symbol of resistance against the Taliban’s efforts to deprive girls of education and basic rights. Their attack on the girl garnered worldwide revulsion and condemnation. Pakistanis have held protests and candlelight prayer vigils for the girl, but Pakistani government officials have not yet criticized the Taliban by name for the assault. Critics say that this reveals a lack of resolve in fighting Islamist terrorism.

Yousufzai had campaigned for years against Pakistan’s most ruthless Taliban commanders, Maulana Fazlullah. She was supported in her campaign by her parents. Fazlullah and his Taliban seized  Yuosufzai’s native Swat Valley in 2009 when they agreed with the government on taking de facto control of the former tourist spot. Warlord Fazlullah imposed Islamic law, while also bombing girls’ schools and murdered girls and women deemed immoral. The army later launched a major offensive in Swat, which brought about the flight of numerous Taliban combatants.  Many fled to Afghanistan. Earlier this year, Fazlullah’s men captured and beheaded 17 Pakistani soldiers in one of several raids cross the Afghanistan-Pakistan border  that plague the Pakistani military.

 As Yousufzai became more renowned, terrorist Fazlullah continued to try silencing her. Even death threats published in newspapers or slipped under her door did not daunt the daring teenager.  Her courage was the reason why Fazlullah sent assassins, even though there is a tribal prohibition on the killing of women.  The Taliban has vowed to kill Yousufzai’s father, a headmaster at a girls’ school in Swat.

Militants struck again on the evening of October 14 at a police checkpoint near Peshawar. Six policemen are dead and a senior officer was beheaded. Seven police officers remain missing. Police are providing security to journalists who have been threatened by the Taliban because of their coverage of the Yousufzai case.

Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.


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