According to the BBC, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban (a year ago yesterday) for the horrific crime of trying to go to school, has just been awarded the prestigious Sakharov Prize by the EU. That’s not only for her courage, of course, but for her blogging for the BBC before she was shot, and her subsequent activism, trying to ensure that everyone, regardless of whether they have a Y chromosome, can get schooling.
The Sakharov Prize for free speech is awarded by the European Parliament annually in memory of Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov.
. . . The 50,000 euro ($65,000) prize is considered Europe’s top human rights award.
. . .”Today, we decided to let the world know that our hope for a better future stands in young people like Malala Yousafzai,” said the head of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP), Joseph Daul.
Malala received a standing ovation in July this year for an address to the United Nations General Assembly, in which she vowed she would never be silenced.
MEPs in Strasbourg said Malala was “incredibly brave” to continue promoting the rights of children. Her new home is in Birmingham, in the UK.
She joins a distinguished list of winners of the Sakharov Prize which includes South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, also known as Myanmar. The award will be officially presented at a ceremony in Strasbourg in November.
Time Magazine says that the Nobel Peace Prize, to be this Friday, is “hers to lose”, and although that may be a bit of a stretch, it’s not completely out of the question. That Prize would send a strong message to the Taliban, to repressive Islam, and to the world that education is an right independent of gender.
Sadly, she’s not nearly as lionized in Pakistan as elsewhere. The Taliban has threatened to attack her again, and conspiracy theories abound in Pakistan that she was a CIA agent and, bizarrely, shot by CIA agents and not the Taliban. The Pakistani government has pointedly ignored her honors (although local clerics did issue a fatwa against the gunmen). In another article, Time reports the pushback in Malala’s homeland.
Let we forget what she went through, have a look at part of the Wikipedia article describing her shooting:
As Yousafzai became more recognized, the dangers facing her became more acute. Death threats against her were published in newspapers and slipped under her door. On Facebook, where she was an active user, she began to receive threats and fake profiles were created under her name. When none of this worked, a Taliban spokesman says they were “forced” to act. In a meeting held in the summer of 2012, Taliban leaders unanimously agreed to kill her.
IOn 9 October 2012, a Taliban gunman shot Yousafzai as she rode home on a bus after taking an exam in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. The masked gunman shouted “Which one of you is Malala? Speak up, otherwise I will shoot you all”, and, on her being identified, shot at her. She was hit with one bullet, which went through her head, neck, and ended in her shoulder. Two other girls were also wounded in the shooting: Kainat Riaz and Shazia Ramzan, both of whom were stable enough to speak to reporters and provide details of the attack.
After the shooting, Yousafzai was airlifted to a military hospital in Peshawar, where doctors were forced to begin operating after swelling developed in the left portion of her brain, which had been damaged by the bullet when it passed through her head. After a three-hour operation, doctors successfully removed the bullet, which had lodged in her shoulder near her spinal cord. The day following the attack, doctors performed a decompressive craniectomy, in which part of the skull is removed to allow room for the brain to swell.
On 11 October 2012, a panel of Pakistani and British doctors decided to move Yousafzai to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology in Rawalpindi. Mumtaz Khan, a doctor, said that she had a 70% chance of survival. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that Yousafzai would be shifted to Germany, where she could receive the best medical treatment, as soon as she was stable enough to travel. A team of doctors would travel with her, and the government would bear the expenditures of her treatment. Doctors reduced Yousafzai’s sedation on 13 October, and she moved all four limbs.
Offers to treat Yousafzai came from around the world, with several from the United States. One offer came from former US Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who had been through similar treatment after she was shot in the head in 2011. Another offer came from the American military hospital atLandstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and another from US Senator John Kerry, who had longstanding political ties to Pakistan. On 15 October, Yousafzai traveled to the United Kingdom for further treatment, approved by both her doctors and family. Her plane landed in Dubai to refuel and then continued to Birmingham, where she was treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, one of the specialties of this hospital being the treatment of military personnel injured in conflict.
Yousafzai had come out of her coma by 17 October, was responding well to treatment, and was said to have a good chance of fully recovering without any brain damage. Later updates on 20 and 21 October stated that she was stable, but was still battling an infection. By 8 November, she was photographed sitting up in bed.
On 3 January 2013, Yousafzai was released from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham to continue her rehabilitation at her family’s temporary home in the West Midlands. She had a five-hour operation on 2 February to reconstruct her skull and restore her hearing, and was reported in stable condition at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.
All that suffering because she just wanted an education. This comes out of Islam, of course, and I hope no apologists can pin this on colonialism or simply disaffected and poverty-stricken Pakistanis.