A lot has been written about Malala Yousafzi, the remarkable Pakastani teenager who was the subject of a 2009 New York Times documentary and was shot in the head by Taliban fighters on October 9, 2012, for her criticism of the Taliban’s ban on girls’ education. Not a lot has been written about her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai.
Ziauddin is not a saint. There are no saints in this world–just notable fighters and peace-makers. As an advocate for girls in Taliban territory, he is both. I have not been able to find anything that explains the genesis of Ziauddin’s interest in the education of females–perhaps because journalists have not found the story to be of interest. Looking at the timeline of his life, one can see that he opened a private girls school in the Swat Valley, about 100 miles from Islamabad, shortly before the birth of Malala. Ziauddin states that when he saw his newborn daughter, he looked into her eyes and knew she was very very special. And indeed she is, no doubt in large part because of the dedication of her father to the development of her mind.
Some might argue that Ziauddin is a pushy father–at least by our standards. But our standards–including the idea that individuals should be able to choose their own career path–take a great deal for granted. When his daughter declared that she wanted to become a doctor, Ziauddin countered that she must grow up to be a politician. The reason, he said, is that Pakistan needs politicians who will make it possible for all girls to become doctors.
Ziauddin has paid dearly for his and his daughter’s advocacy. Malala was nearly murdered and remains in a Birmingham hospital where she is fighting infection and receiving rehabilitation. He and the rest of his family have received death threats. But he insists he will not give up. “The Taliban cannot stop all independent voices through the force of bullets,” he says.
Ziauddin now has a powerful ally in his mission to educate girls: UNESCO and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown who is the U.N. Special envoy for Global Education. Brown says that the United Nations is more determined than ever that every child (including 32 million primary-school-aged girls who have no access to schools) will be enrolled in school by 2015. Brown also indicated that Ziauddin–who has grass-roots expertise–will be named a U.N. special advisor for global education to help accomplish the goal.
So my wonderful readers, enjoy Southpaw’s delicious Hatemas posts. Then top them with a small dollop of hope. Hate and love. Fighters and peacemakers. This Christmas we celebrate both.