Her dad told her that she can be anything she wants to be. He believes in her. He knows that she has the same capacity for knowledge as any guy. She believes, too. She knows she can, she will, go to school to be a doctor to help people. And, she wants other girls to have the same opportunity. Her name is Malala Yousafzai.
When I was younger, my parents set me on their lap and told me, “You can do whatever you want to do. You can be whoever you want to be.” And here I am, at Boston University, loving my classes and planning for my future. The difference between Malala and I– I was given the opportunity. I don’t live in the constant threat of fear and violence.
Malala has been an activist, a voice in the dark, when the Taliban took over her Swat Valley in Pakistan in 2007 and forbid girls to go to school in 2009. In a documentary made in 2009, both Malala and her father recount the constant threat of violence in Swat Valley. “ We are feeling that we are in a war zone. We hear a big blast and we just sit in our beds. Then we sleep again. So this hide and seek goes on all night. That’s our life. That’s our life.” Still, Malala did not back down. She inspired, and continues to inspire, the world with her radical ideas of equality, freedom, and peace.
The Taliban know the power of these ideas. They know the hope and freedom that is stirring in girls, women, boys, and men around the world, and they are afraid. Yes– Men with guns are afraid of a 15 year old girl. As Victor Hugo once said, “There is one thing stronger than all the armies of the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.”
So what did they do? They shot her. The Taliban hunted Malala down on a bus, and shot her in the head multiple times. A Taliban spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan added that if she survived, the militants would certainly try to kill her again. “Let this be a lesson,” he said.
Thankfully, the Taliban didn’t succeed in killing Malala. Hope is alive, and so is she. After being airlifted to another hospital in Pakistan and then Britain, doctors say she is likely to make a full recovery.
This isn’t just about a girl. This isn’t just about women’s education or even freedom of speech. It’s about an idea– an idea that all people have the right to live without fear of violence or oppression. This idea is one that cannot be taken away, even with threats, men, and guns. Malala Yousafzai proved that.