Editorial: Speak up to support Malala Yousafzai
It is almost beyond comprehension that a 14-year-old girl could be gunned down because of her outspoken passion for education, and that a political and military organization would publicly and proudly take responsibility for it. But that is exactly what happened to Malala Yousafzai on Tuesday in Pakistan, where masked Taliban gunmen attacked her on a bus filled with schoolchildren, badly wounding the teenager and injuring two other girls.
In 2009, Yousafzai became an international symbol of the thirst for education and equal rights on the part of girls and women being subjugated by the Taliban. She blogged under a pseudonym about her passion for learning, for herself and others. She won awards, and was the subject of several documentaries, and it was because of her message and notoriety that the Taliban tried to assassinate her.
It is an entirely unacceptable situation, one that begs for humane intervention from the United States and Americans as individuals, and the people of every civilized nation. This violence by misogynists to intimidate the women and girls who dare claim their inalienable rights must somehow be stopped.
The Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan is not a fringe group. It is a central political player in the region, with significant grassroots support. Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said Tuesday that Yousafzai's fight for education and equality was "obscene," and that if she survived she would be targeted again. "She has become a symbol of Western culture in the area, she was openly propagating it," Ehsan said. "Let this be a lesson."
And it should be a lesson on the depths of the Taliban's depravity. But more than 10 years of war waged by the United States has not defeated the Taliban or undermined its support. The U.S. effort in Afghanistan, and Pakistan, has taught us there is a lot we can't accomplish there militarily. That's a lesson a lot of armies have learned in this region. Protecting the rights of women is perhaps the best argument for keeping a strong U.S. military presence there, but the local reaction to that presence is so destabilizing, and the danger to our soldiers so serious, that the pullout of U.S. troops has to happen.
Yet this violence against women cannot stand. The girls who brave threats to attend school, the parents who send them, and the teachers who educate them, must be supported.
There is strong anti-Taliban sentiment in the region, as well as support. The governments of both Pakistanian and Afghanistan are, for the most part, enemies of the Taliban. Pakistani officials have offered a large reward for the capture of the men who committed this crime.
The United Nations, and every member nation, and all sorts of private organizations, and any person who can, needs to support Malala and all the other girls who saw her as a symbol of hope. More schools must be built -- so many that they cannot all be shut down. More teachers must be hired -- so many that they cannot be silenced.
The violence will stop when support for the Taliban stops. That will happen when opposing the Taliban is so clearly a better choice for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan that they embrace it.