Courage and Hope – an essay by Malala Yousafzai

malala and kailash

 

This essay was published in Medium shortly after the announcement. Feel free to click it, or just read her work below.

 

Courage and Hope

What the Nobel Peace Prize means to me.

Today, I was honored to learn I have been selected to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

I spoke to co-recipient Kailash Satyarthi by phone. We agreed to continue the struggle for children’s rights together and to work to heal divides between my home of Pakistan and his of India.

I am proud I am the first young person and first Pakistani to win this prize. It is an honour I share with Kailash Satyarthi — a hero in the fight for children globally. More than ever, our world needs more heroes like Kailash. His example makes me brave.

I believe the Nobel committee didn’t give this award to me. I believe they have done this because they believe education is the best weapon through which we can fight poverty, ignorance and terrorism.
I believe they did this because they don’t believe in just one girl, but in all the girls whose voices need to be heard, who are under the darkness of conflict or poverty. This award is for my powerful sisters who have not been listened to for far too long.

And I raise their voices, I stand together with them.

I believe they did this because they believe we are #StrongerThan any challenge. We are #StrongerThan fear. This award is courage and hope for me and all those who fight for education.

Walking to school with my father.

When I found out that I won today, I was in school, studying Chemistry. I told my teacher I needed to finish my school assignment. Education is my top priority. I was learning with my friends, where I believe every child should be. But 57 million of them are still out school. We still have a lot to do.

The road to education, peace and equality is very long. But I know millions of children are walking beside me. If we go together, we will achieve our goals and we will complete our journey. We have to walk together.

I am honoured to walk this road with Kailash. I am honoured to walk it with you.

I invite you to join our movement to break the cycle of poverty and empower girls through education at www.malala.org

Stay updated on all Nobel Peace Prize news and watch Malala’s full speech here.

Originally published at community.malala.org.

 

Malala and Nabila – worlds apart

malala and nabila

There’s much adoration toward Malala Yousafzai when she was awarded Nobel Peace Prize this year – no wonder she’s been tirelessly talked about in mainstream media, and she’s the youngest person ever to grab such a prestigious award. With hardly a doubt, we all must congratulate her, appreciate her bravery in advocating education rights for women and children in her country, Pakistan, particularly in areas controlled by Al-Qaeda terrorists who never cease intimidating their daily affairs there.

Nonetheless, behind the hype about Malala, there’s something ironic, and inevitable, that is all associated with our natural tendencies towards statistical numbing. While Western media never stops courting her, we seemingly become oblivious to the fact that at the same place she used to live in, there’s an ongoing campaign led by US military to infiltrate the terrorists. But this is being done at a huge cost. Relying solely on drones, they often haphazardly target civilian places as well, killing ordinary people, including many women and children. The media, business as usual, has again, by exploiting Malala’s name – she has no guilt for this part, concealed us from the what is really going on there. The drone attacks continue over and over, and there are seemingly no signs of abating.

Until now, US government has yet to completely review and evaluate their drone policy. Again, this is an irony.

Read the Al Jazeera opinion piece below, published in November 2013.

Malala and Nabila: worlds apart

by Murtaza Hussein

01 Nov 2013

On October 24, 2012 a Predator drone flying over North Waziristan came upon eight-year-old Nabila Rehman, her siblings, and their grandmother as they worked in a field beside their village home. Her grandmother, Momina Bibi, was teaching the children how to pick okra as the family prepared for the coming Eid holiday. However on this day the terrible event would occur that would forever alter the course of this family’s life. In the sky the children suddenly heard the distinctive buzzing sound emitted by the CIA-operated drones – a familiar sound to those in the rural Pakistani villages which are stalked by them 24 hours a day – followed by two loud clicks. The unmanned aircraft released its deadly payload onto the Rehman family, and in an instant the lives of these children were transformed into a nightmare of pain, confusion and terror. Seven children were wounded, and Nabila’s grandmother was killed before her eyes, an act for which no apology, explanation or justification has ever been given.

This past week Nabila, her schoolteacher father, and her 12-year-old brother travelled to Washington DC to tell their story and to seek answers about the events of that day. However, despite overcoming incredible obstacles in order to travel from their remote village to the United States, Nabila and her family were roundly ignored. At the congressional hearing where they gave testimony, only five out of 430 representatives showed up. In the words of Nabila’s father to those few who did attend“My daughter does not have the face of a terrorist and neither did my mother. It just doesn’t make sense to me, why this happened… as a teacher, I wanted to educate Americans and let them know my children have been injured.”

The translator broke down in tears while recounting their story, but the government made it a point to snub this family and ignore the tragedy it had caused to them. Nabila, a slight girl of nine with striking hazel eyes, asked a simple question in her testimony: “What did my grandmother do wrong?” There was no one to answer this question, and few who cared to even listen. Symbolic of the utter contempt in which the government holds the people it claims to be liberating, while the Rehmans recounted their plight, Barack Obama was spending the same time meeting with the CEO of weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

Selective memory

It is useful to contrast the American response to Nabila Rehman with that of Malala Yousafzai, a young girl who was nearly assassinated by the Pakistani Taliban. While Malala was feted by Western media figures, politicians and civic leaders for her heroism, Nabila has become simply another one of the millions of nameless, faceless people who have had their lives destroyed over the past decade of American wars. The reason for this glaring discrepancy is obvious. Since Malala was a victim of the Taliban, she, despite her protestations, was seen as a potential tool of political propaganda to be utilised by war advocates. She could be used as the human face of their effort, a symbol of the purported decency of their cause, the type of little girl on behalf of whom the United States and its allies can say they have been unleashing such incredible bloodshed. Tellingly, many of those who took up her name and image as a symbol of the justness of American military action in the Muslim world did not even care enough to listen to her own words or feelings about the subject.

As described by the Washington Post’s Max Fisher:

Western fawning over Malala has become less about her efforts to improve conditions for girls in Pakistan, or certainly about the struggles of millions of girls in Pakistan, and more about our own desire to make ourselves feel warm and fuzzy with a celebrity and an easy message. It’s a way of letting ourselves off the hook, convincing ourselves that it’s simple matter of good guys vs bad guys, that we’re on the right side and that everything is okay.

But where does Nabila fit into this picture? If extrajudicial killings, drone strikes and torture are in fact all part of a just-cause associated with the liberation of the people of Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere, where is the sympathy or even simple recognition for the devastation this war has caused to countless little girls such as her? The answer is clear: The only people to be recognized for their suffering in this conflict are those who fall victim to the enemy. Malala for her struggles was to be made the face of the American war effort –  against her own will if necessary – while innumerable little girls such as Nabila will continue to be terrorized and murdered as part of this war without end. There will be no celebrity appearances or awards ceremonies for Nabila. At her testimony almost no one even bothered to attend.

But if they had attended, they would’ve heard a nine-year-old girl asking the questions which millions of other innocent people who have had their lives thrown into chaos over the past decade have been asking: “When I hear that they are going after people who have done wrong to America, then what have I done wrong to them? What did my grandmother do wrong to them? I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Murtaza Hussain is a Toronto-based writer and analyst focused on issues related to Middle Eastern politics.