America and Western nations have been presented with a unique opportunity to exhibit their benevolent diplomacy in the wake of a horrific tragedy. As America continues to engage in combat with the Taliban, it is extremely important that we continue to insure and protect the freedom and liberty of those caught in the crosshairs of this ongoing war. On October 9th, 2012, education rights advocate was shot in the head and neck while riding the school bus on her way home. Misguided with self-grandiosity, Taliban extremists have taken credit for the assassination attempt of the 14 year old Pakistani girl. The attack was welcomed with global condemnation and disgust over the heinous act of violence.
It is difficult to comprehend the actions of a child that is greeted with attempts of murder but Malala’s only crime was her desire to be educated and fighting on behalf other young girls to have access to education. In the region of Pakistan that Malala and many other young girls like her reside, the Taliban have used force and fear to harm those who educate young girls and destroy the buildings in which they congregate for class. This Taliban influenced region is in the Swat District of Pakistan in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The Taliban are notorious for their harsh oppressive treatment of women but when violence against children is carried out, it brings a unifying opposition against it. Since the Taliban assumed power in 1996, they have implemented strict laws in regards to women. In addition to females not being allowed to be present in public without a male relative above the age of eight, they are also not allowed to be in public without a Burka, speak in public, and are forbidden to appear on their own balconies to just name a few disagreeable laws. Their oppression of women has developed into an institution of control that is being challenged by young girls like Malala. This challenge has angered the Taliban to the point where murder is a viable option.
As the challenges of the War on Terror continue to mount, what cannot be ignored is the chance to defend such fundamental rights for a strong and healthy democracy. Since the shooting, it has led to universal agreement that protecting the access to education for young Pakistani girls is imperative. World leaders have unanimously applauded the bravery of Malala and have championed for her cause. Some of the most vocal have included former First Lady Laura Bush, former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, current United States President Barack Obama, and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, to just name a few have all expressed their support for her.
Gordon Brown, now currently serving as the United Nations Special Envoy to Global Education has been one of the premier leaders on behalf of these young Pakistan girls. He has launched a petition in Yousafzai’s name and “in support of what Malala fought for (BBC).” Utilizing the slogan “I Am Malala,” the petition demanded that no child should be without schooling by 2015 including young girls in oppressed nations. Brown said he would deliver the petition to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari when he visits Islamabad in November (BBC). The petition included three central demands – (1) We call for Pakistan to agree to a plan to deliver education to every child; (2) We call on all countries to outlaw discrimination against girls; (3) We call on international organizations to ensure the world’s 61 million out-of-school children are in education by the end of 2015.
The actions of leaders like Brown is what will be necessary in winning the Global War on Terror in the long-term. The opportunity to sincerely showcase to the Arab and Muslim world that our goal is to not destroy their cultures but to defend the rights and freedoms of the oppressed. Malala Yousafzai symbolizes the shift in paradigm in many of these nations and it is important that the rest of the world stands alongside children.