One thing that characterized Afghanistan under Taliban rule before 2001 was their treatment of women and girls. From a society of total repression, new expressions of education, culture and human rights have slowly evolved. As you might suspect, Taliban groups in both Afghanistan and Pakistan are not pleased with that development.
On Tuesday, Malala Yusufzai, a 14-year-old education rights activist, was shot and seriously injured on her way home from school in the Swat Valley region of northwest Pakistan. The New York Times, using local news sources, reported on her injuries
"Pakistan’s Express Tribune reported that doctors at a hospital in Mingora, the region’s main city, said that Malala was “out of danger” because the bullet that “struck her skull and came out on the other side and hit her shoulder” had not damaged her brain. The newspaper added that the girl was later moved to Peshawar in a Pakistani Army helicopter.
"But The News, a Pakistani daily, reported late Tuesday that a bullet is still lodged in her head and arrangements were being made by the government to transport Malala abroad for emergency surgery that could not be performed at the military hospital in Peshawar. The newspaper Dawn also reported that surgeons at the military facility said “she immediately needs a sophisticated surgical procedure, which is not possible in the country” to save her life."
The Taliban is unrepentant. According to Al Jazeera,
"The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has since claimed responsibility for the attack.
"Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told the AFP news agency that the groupcarried out the attack after repeatedly warning Malala to stop speaking out against them.
"She is a Western-minded girl. She always speaks against us. We will target anyone who speaks against the Taliban," he said by telephone from an undisclosed location. "We warned her several times to stop speaking against the Taliban and to stop supporting Western NGOs, and to come to the path of Islam."
One of the challenges facing the U.S. withdrawal of troops is how to provide security for those courageous activists for women’s and girl’s rights and advancement. In a recent study, “Afghan Women Speak,” David Cortright and Kristen Wall at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies propose that
“Demilitarization and negotiation of a peace agreement should be coupled with the deployment of an interim peacekeeping force under the auspices of the United Nations to provide transitional security protection for civilians.”
Something along those lines must be created, or we will be reading more stories of advocates being attacked.
Duane Shank is Senior Policy Adviser for Sojourners.