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Positively Speaking: The heroism of Malala


By Toby Moore

For Capital Region Independent Media

Toby Moore

We’ve seen so many superhero movies that we’ve been conditioned to think that a hero must have superhuman abilities. Like Superman, “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive!” They must be able to fly, shoot lasers through their eyes, and perform feats of incredible strength and agility.

The truth is that heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes even a little girl can stand up to great tyranny and win.

It reminds me of the old phrase, “It’s not the size of the person, but the size of their heart that counts.”

Have you ever heard of Malala Yousafzai? Malala Yousafzai was born in Pakistan on July 12, 1997. She was raised in a conservative family and received her early education at home. Her father was a teacher and an education activist. He instilled in her a love for learning and a desire to improve the education system in Pakistan.

In 2009, when Malala was 12 years old, the Taliban began taking control of the Swat Valley, where Malala lived. The Taliban’s brutal reign of terror was a nightmare for the local population.

As the Islamist extremist group tightened its grip on the region, they imposed a harsh version of Islamic law that stripped away the people’s fundamental rights and freedoms.

Girls were banned from school, and those who dared to defy the ban were tortured and killed. The Taliban destroyed dozens of girls’ schools, leaving thousands of young girls without access to education. Women were forced to wear burqas in public and were beaten and killed if they dared to defy this oppressive rule.

The Taliban thugs carried out random bombings and targeted assassinations, causing absolute fear and panic.

Public executions and amputations were punishments for crimes. Anyone accused of spying or collaborating with the Pakistani government was publicly beheaded.

In this situation, I’m sure many of the local population sought help from the government or lobbied the United Nations for Peacekeepers. No doubt, many prayed for a miracle, never realizing their miracle was a 12-year-old girl.

Malala’s father, who ran a school for girls, refused to comply with the ban, and Malala began speaking out against the Taliban’s actions.

In September 2008, Malala wrote a blog for the BBC under a pen name, describing life under the Taliban. The blog was a huge success. Soon after, she began speaking to the media about her life and the importance of education for girls.

What kind of threat could a 12-year-old girl be to the mighty Taliban? Enough of a threat that Taliban leadership unanimously decided to kill her, and they knew where she lived. Death threats were delivered to her house and slid underneath her door. Even newspapers began publishing threats against her.

One day in 2012, she had defiantly attended a school to take an exam; while riding a bus on the way home, a Taliban hitman boarded the bus and asked which of the children was Malala; after identifying herself, he put a bullet in her head, injuring two others.

Indeed, the attacker thought he was successful in his attempt. After being rushed to the hospital for a five-hour surgery to remove the bullet, miraculously the doctors said she had a 70% chance of survival.

Malala survived and seemed to have a full recovery. In 2013 she spoke at the United Nations. She said, “The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born … “

Despite the odds, Malala Yousafzai stood up against the Taliban’s brutal regime and fought for girls’ education in Pakistan.

In 2014 she became the youngest ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Malala Yousafzai continues to fight and, no doubt, is just beginning her journey to greatness. Although the Taliban is alive and well, Malala has won. Her international fame and attention have captivated the world, and there is no turning back.

You have within you a strength that is greater than you can imagine. Like Malala, you can pursue your dreams, stand up against tyranny, and win.

Toby Moore is a columnist, the star of Emmy-nominated “A Separate Peace,” and the CEO of Cubestream Inc.

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