Head’s Assembly: Malala – a beacon of light in a sea of darkness and discrimination

It is an everyday occurrence and one all of you have experienced.

You get on the bus at the end of the school day.  You talk about your classes, your homework, your forthcoming birthday, your annoying little brother.  You are sat next to your best friend.  The bus is nearly full.  Its departure is delayed.  The driver is waiting for the disorganised boy who has lost his bag…again.  You are so busy talking you don’t notice the stranger who gets on to the bus; he is asking the other children something and they are pointing in your direction.  A moment or two later you are aware of a man standing over you and then there are three shots.

It could be the script for a horror film, but it is what has just happened to a 14 year old Pakistani school girl who was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen.  The reason for the attack was that the girl, Malala, had been writing a blog campaigning for the right for girls to attend school.

Malala lives in the Swat region of North Western Pakistan.  For the past few years this has been an area of conflict between the Pakistan government and the Taliban.  When the Taliban are in ascendancy strict rules are enforced.

  • Women are banned from shopping in the market
  • No woman can work outside the home.  Female teachers, engineers, lawyers and doctors must give up their jobs.
  • Women must wear a particular type of burka
  • Girls cannot attend school, and women cannot go to university
  • Cable and satellite television are banned
  • Women are outlawed from using cosmetics; women with painted nails risk having their fingers cut off
  • People who break the Taliban rules face arrest and execution without trial

Malala kept a diary of her experiences in Swat under the Taliban.  It was published on BBC Urdu online and attracted a worldwide following.

Sunday 8th February

“I am sad watching my uniform, school bag and geometry box.  Boys’ schools are opening tomorrow but the Taleban have banned girls’ education.  The memories of my school flashed before me, especially the arguments among the girls.

My brother’s school is also reopening and he has not done his homework. He is worried and does not want to go to school. My mother mentioned a curfew tomorrow and my brother asked her if it was really going to be imposed. When my mother replied in the affirmative he started dancing with joy.”

The Taliban’s decision to sanction the attempted murder of a 14 year old girl who just wanted to go to school has rightly attracted worldwide criticism and condemnation.  The overwhelming majority of Pakastani people are shocked and outraged by the brutal assassination attempt.  Other countries have rallied round to support Malala.  The United Arab Emirates provided an Air Ambulance which flew Malala to Queen Elizabeth’s Medical Centre in Birmingham, a centre that specialises in the treatment of paediatric trauma.  Let us hope and pray that the NHS medical team treating Malala can save her life and nurse her back to full health.

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