The unnerving story of a young Pashtun girl, “I Am Malala” chronicles Malala Yousafza’s experience being raised in a prominently radical nation dominated by the Taliban.
Her life was drastically transformed at age 15 when she was approached by a member of the Taliban on her bus ride home from school. The man demanded to know “who is Malala?” before firing a shot directly into her face. The event was tragically broadcasted and is known worldwide as just one of the Taliban’s cruel acts.
Although terrorism is nothing new and media coverage on war in the middle east has always been prominent, Malala’s experience living under Taliban rule in Swat, an area in Pakistan, is still undeniably shocking.
Throughout Malala’s childhood, various rebel groups in Pakistan attempted to overthrow the government and eliminate corruption as a way to “restore” Muslim culture that they deemed lost. The most successful and influential, though, was the Taliban, led by Fazlullah in her home in the Swat Valley.
Support grew for Fazlullah and the Taliban during Malala’s younger years with the promise of reestablishing proper Islamic practice and traditions. However, these acts to restore faith quickly escalated into violent, destructive acts.
Claiming that the Quran prohibited girls from attending school, Fazlullah demanded to end education for young girls. When people refused, however, the Taliban attempted to prohibit it themselves by bombing schools, threatening teachers, and eventually, closing schools for girls all together. This was devastating to Malala as school was her only escape from the terror surrounding her.
Despite the violence and death threats, Malala was not deterred from fighting for her right to education. Following her father’s example, Malala began to speak out about her education. She attended public meetings and was interviewed for various newspapers and television programs, both local and international.
In her descriptions of these interviews and meetings, it is evident that Malala had little fear regardless of the warnings to not speak out against the Taliban, especially as a young woman. Although she understood the danger involved, she was persistent and unwilling to abandon her belief that all should have access to education.
Her acts proved to be both courageous and unusual for a girl of 11 years old and her desire for learning was even greater. While the number of young girls attending classes dwindled, Malala, with the encouragement of her father, Ziauddin, remained enrolled in school. Her passion gave her the power to hide her books from the Taliban occupying Swat on her walk to school each day.
As an inspiration to the oppressed, Malala proves that one person can make a difference in a seemingly impossible society. When describing her first acts of speaking out against the Taliban and their malicious acts, Malala confirms her confidence and power as an education activist and leader for peace. “If one man, Fazlullah, can destroy everything, why can’t one girl change it?”