13 Apr 2015

I am Malala

I read this over Easter* and broadly agree with this Guardian review. I hadn’t realised Malala was already an international star long before her attempted assassination: she’d already won a national peace prize and written a blog for the BBC that was meant to be anonymous but didn’t really remain so for long.
The Taliban shooting must be one of the most back-firing attacks in history. The Taliban catapulted Malala to international superstardom. Violence can sometimes be the most counter-productive thing a terrorist can do. To give another example relevant to this story, it’s like the CIA funding and backing Al-Qaeda (after the 1980 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) which back-fired in that it helped create both the Taliban and the suicide bombers who were able to bomb the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001. 

Here is an extract from the Guardian review
Malala Yousafzai's fearless memoir, co-written with journalist Christina Lamb, begins on Malala's drive home from school on the day she was shot in the head. "Who is Malala?" the young gunman who stopped the Khushal school van asked. None of the girls answered. But everyone in the valley knew who Malala was. Ten years old when the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan came to the beautiful Swat Valley, once the home of ancient Buddhist kings, 11 years old by the time she had established herself as an international advocate for girls' education in Pakistan, Malala was targeted by the Taliban for "spreading secularism".
Ghostwritten books pose a constant difficulty – you are never sure whose voice is leading whose. Malala's voice has the purity, but also the rigidity, of the principled. Whether she is being a competitive teenager and keeping track of who she beat in exams (and by how much) or writing about the blog for the BBC that catapulted her on to the international stage … or talking about Pakistan's politicians ("useless"), Malala is passionate and intense. Her faith and her duty to the cause of girls' education is unquestionable, her adoration for her father – her role model and comrade in arms – is moving and her pain at the violence carried out in the name of Islam palpable.
What I also liked about the book were the descriptions of the beauty of the Swat Valley (complete with ski resorts like Switzerland) and the explanations of the differences between the Pashtuns and other groups in Pakistan. I was shocked to be reminded how bad the floods were in 2010 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. At least 2,000 people died and the number of individuals affected by the flooding was more than the combined total of individuals affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake. (This is according to ReliefWeb who say they are "the leading source for reliable and timely humanitarian information on global crises and disasters since 1996".)

Last word to Fatima Bhutto in her Guardian review
... there is a genuine concern that this extraordinary girl's courageous and articulate message will be colonised by one power or other for its own insidious agendas. She is young and the forces around her are strong and often sinister when it comes to their designs on the global south. There is a reason we know Malala's story but not that of Noor Aziz, eight years old when killed by a drone strike in Pakistan; Zayda Ali Mohammed Nasser, dead at seven from a drone strike in Yemen; or Abeer Qassim Hamza al Janabi, the 14-year-old girl raped and set on fire by US troops in Mahmudiyah, Iraq. "I wasn't thinking these people were humans," one of the soldiers involved, Steven Green, said of his Iraqi victims.

*Es un libro de mi cunada en Espana.

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