Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai turns 19 today. Her birthday was declared by the United Nations as ‘Malala Day’. In the Pakistani girl’s own words, “Malala day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights.”
Yousafzai needs no introduction. The blogger for BBC in Taliban-controlled Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, she achieved international celebrity after surviving a bullet to the head in 2012, for her insistence on receiving education in spite of the outfit Tehrik-e-Taliban banning girls from attending school. She won the Nobel Peace Prize with Kailash Satyarthi in 2014 and is currently pursuing her education in the United Kingdom.
This Malala Day, we bring to you stories of three lesser known Pakistani youngsters, whose resistance to terror, even under threat to their lives, restored our faith in humanity:
1. Hina Khan
17-year old Hina Khan comes from a family of activists who work for peace and women’s rights in Pakistan, especially in the sensitive and developmentally lagging Swat region. Campaigning for girls’ education since she was 13, Hina and her family continuously received death threats from the Taliban in their native region. They have moved to Islamabad for safety but the threats have not yet subsided.
2. Fareeda ‘Kokikhel’ Afridi
Also hailing from the Khyber tribal area in Pakistan, Afridi and her sister ran an NGO for women’s emancipation, called Society for Appraisal and Women’s Empowerment in Rural Areas (SAWERA). Afridi had a Masters in Gender Studies and she was a vocal protester of the Pakistani government, the patriarchal Pakistani society and the Taliban. She was shot dead, allegedly by Taliban extremists, on her way to work in July 2012. She was 25.
3. Aitzaz Hasan Bangash
Yet another braveheart from the terror-stricken Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Aitzaz Hasan, then 17, was outside his school gate with two friends in Ibrahimzai, Hangu when a twentysomething tried to enter the premises to “take admission” in the school in January 2014. One of them noticed a detonator on the man’s vest. They ran inside while Hassan confronted the man, refusing to let him go past. The person then detonated the explosives on the spot, killing himself and Aitzaz in the blast.
Aitzaz’s sacrifice saved almost 2000 lives in the school, and led to widespread outrage all over Pakistan against terrorist activities. He was posthumously awarded the Sitara-e-Shujaat (Star of Bravery) by the Pakistani government.
These are just a few of the stories about young boys and girls who live their lives in the shadow of a deadly infestation everyday, and still continue to strive for a better, peaceful life. There might be many other such bravehearts in Pakistan and elsewhere whose deeds might not receive such spotlight as Malala’s did.
It is a topic for an entirely different debate, how legitimate Malala Yousafzai’s claim as the ambassador for girls’ education worldwide is. All skepticism aside, we should laud her efforts, and of those like Afridi, Khan and Bangash, who go beyond their years and leave the world a better place than they find it.
Know of more such inspiring stories? Share with us in the Comments below.
Title image: abc7news