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Farzana’s Blog from Pakistan on Malala: This Time History Will Never Forgive Us

Malala Yousafzai | Photo: nation.com.pk

Malala Yousafzai | Photo: nation.com.pk

UPDATE 10/10/14: Malala Yousafzai Becomes Youngest-Ever Nobel Prize Winner

On a day when CNN is reporting that nine people have been arrested for the vicious attack on Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan, our Women’s Eye contributor Farzana Ali, a correspondent for Aaj TV in Peshawar, has sent us her blog about meeting this courageous young student:

Farzana Ali/correspondent for Aaj TV

Journalist Farzana Ali

In early 2009 when I went to Swat in the north-western part of Khyber Pukhtun Khwa, to report on a situation there, the Taliban held control of Swat.  The civil administration just stayed in their offices.  And after the ban on girls’ education, the Taliban continued to destroy schools in the area.

I was searching for my interviewee but no one agreed to say anything about the situation, especially the destruction of schools and women’s education.  At that time my Swat reporter, Fyaz Zafer, told me about a girl living in Mangora, Swat. Maybe she would talk about the situation because she was against what was going  on there.

Malala Yousafzai/Photo from Farzana Ali/Aaj TVSo Fayaz and I went to her home but our camera-man took another way because he didn’t want to take any risk with the Taliban.  At that time reporters were not allowed to do anything against them so they avoided doing things that would make an issue.

When we  reached her home, a little 11-year-old girl came to me and said,  “I am Malala Yousafzai.”  Her face and intellectual attitude seemed very bright. I was happy to find a very brave girl who had the courage to face all the challenges and do everything for education.

But at the same time I was afraid for her because I knew she was living in a place where women can’t express their views.  She told me that education is the right of every human being.  Why, she asked, were these people trying to stop her from her basic right?  Why were they trying to impose their evil thoughts which were against humanity and also Islam?

I came to realize in my first meeting with Malala that she was very clear about her dreams and future.  To me she was the hope for our future. When I came back, I made a report about Swat and included her interview. People liked her views and her bravery.

Malala on cover of NewsweekDuring and after the army’s “Operation Rah-E-Rast against terrorists in Swat,I met with her and her father many times, but in every meeting her boldness and  intelligence made me little bit worried.  She told me she was ready for every sacrifice but would not bow her head in front of people who were the enemy of  humanity.

That was the time when Malala gained the attention of the world.  She started writing a diary for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban.  Using the pen-name Gul Makai, she wrote about the suffering caused by the Taliban who had taken control of the Swat Valley in 2007 and ordered girls’ schools to close.

During these three years, she and her father did a lot for the education of their homeland people, especially for girls.  People always were saying that her father was trying to use this little girl for his own interest, but I disagreed because to me everybody who is working for big causes or on the way of truth are always blamed for their honesty and hard work.

Malala and her father never cared about, or were afraid of, these personal attacks.  During these three critical years, they not only faced the people who blamed them but also got many threats from the Taliban. But they did not stop working  for education.

Although the Taliban were ousted from Swat after “Operation Rah-e-Rast,” her family had regularly received death threats. Many people told them to leave this town, but they believed they would be safe among their own community.

Malala Yousafzai in hospital

Photo: Ispr Handout

But they were wrong, and my fears came true.  On Oct. 9, 2012,  she was stopped as she returned home from school in Mingora and shot in the head.  To me that attack was not just on Malala but on  the ideology of Islam because in Islam the first lesson was to learn, which was also Malala’s dream.

That’s why after that attack, the respect, fame, sympathy, and love for Malala was indeed something beyond imagination. I was satisfied, also, that at least Malala’s sacrifices united the nation on one point, standing together in outrage.

Everybody was blaming the Taliban and defending this little brave girl, but after three days the situation totally changed. Malala became a spy and agent of  America in their minds, and the nation was divided into two portions.

One part was in favor of Malala but other part was against her.  The Taliban issued a detailed statement against her and although a large number of people in the country did not agree with it, they became silenced due to their fear of them.

Malala Yousafzai in recovery

Courtesy: QEHE Charity

I don’t know what will be the fate of Malala but for me Malala is the mirror which shows us our real face and how ugly we are.  Unfortunately, again we have made a shadow on that mirror and given safety to the enemy of our generation.  But this time history will never forgive us.

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Farzana has been involved with giving seminars in Peshawar and Islamabad on the Malala attack.  She’s now in Berlin attending the 10th International Dialogue on Population and Sustainable Development.

Below is part of the documentary the New York Times did on Malala in 2009 that includes her father and shows the dangerous situation they both faced in getting and giving an education.

Farzana Ali On Reporting From The Danger Zone In Northwest Pakistan

Farzana Ali

Farzana Ali covering the Af-Pak peace talks in Kabul/April 2011

By Pamela Burke

UPDATE: 5/2/11 with Osama Bin Laden’s Death

EYE: Are you shocked at the killing of Bin Laden?

FARZANA ALI: Nobody would believe it, but history shows that Al-Qaida’s top leaders tried to hide themselves in such safer urban places. Almost three months earlier Umar Patek, alleged Bali bombing plotter, was captured from this city but the news was made public only in March. Likewise, the city is on the Silk Route, a road to China. So we journalists are expecting more news like this in the future.

EYE: Are people surprised that he was living in Abbottabad?

FARZANA ALI: Yes, of course. There is an atmosphere of uncertainty throughout the country’s urban areas.

EYE: Will this make your country a safer place?

FARZANA ALI: As far as Al-Qaeda, yes. I think they are no more of a threat, but the situation now is different. We have a lot of problems regarding extremism not terrorism. Likewise we have a lot of geo-economic, geo-strategic, and geo-political crises added by the offspring of Al-Qaeda. So I expect worst days coming ahead.

EYE: Do you see a change now in the power of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in your country?

FARZANA ALI: Yes, but who will fill the vacuum is the big question.

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When journalist Farzana Ali leaves her home in the morning, she says she doesn’t know whether she will see her family again. The territory she covers in Pakistan is considered one of the most dangerous in the world.

“I want to be a hope for present and future female journalists as well as a symbol of courage…” Farzana Ali

She has seen it all reporting for newspapers and television in this northwestern region for the past 14 years. From the caves in Kotkai where the head of the suicide bombers is reported to have lived to Tank and South Waziristan covering the case of a future bride who was allegedly killed for cutting her hair, she has traveled all over in search of important stories.

Farzana Ali in Bajor Agency

Reporting in Bajaur Agency at a girls' degree college/2010

Farzana reached out to The Women’s Eye recently after reading the website. She thought it might connect the women of her region to the outer world. Her desire is that her voice be heard, and we wanted to listen. Here is our candid exchange… [Read more…]