Anger spreads over shooting of 14-year-old girl

Malala Yousafzai has survived Taliban shooting while Pakistanis unite in fury

Published October 10, 2012 5:49PM (EDT)

Surgeons in Pakistan successfully removed a bullet from the head of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, a campaigner for girls' rights. The schoolgirl was targeted by Taliban militants for her activism promoting education for women. She remains unconscious but stable in a Peshawar hospital as of Wednesday.

Meanwhile, as the New York Times reported, her attack has provoked anger across Pakistan and the world. The information minister of her province has offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of her attackers, while politicians and military leaders have united in condemnation of the shooting. The Times noted:

Some commentators wondered whether the shooting would galvanize public opinion against the Taliban in the same way as a video that aired in 2009, showing a Taliban fighter flogging a teenage girl in Swat, had primed public opinion for a large military offensive against the militants that summer.

Yousafazi had been a symbol of Taliban resistance before her shooting. As the Wall Street Journal noted, she "first came to prominence in 2009 when she wrote an anonymous blog for BBC Urdu about her experiences as a schoolgirl as the Taliban forced closures of private schools as part of an edict banning girls’ education. Malala’s identity was revealed later, and she was nominated for an International Children’s Peace Prize. She also won the National Peace Prize in Pakistan."

The WSJ reprinted an excerpt from the teenager's online diary, which illustrated her fear of a Taliban attack on girls attending school:

On my way from school to home I heard a man saying ‘I will kill you’. I hastened my pace and after a while I looked back if the man was still coming behind me. But to my utter relief he was talking on his mobile and must have been threatening someone else over the phone.

While some will see Yousafazi's tragedy as validating U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan, aiming to strike Taliban militants, peace activists have swiftly weighed in to block such a narrative, while expressing anger and sympathy for the young victim. Activists with American anti-war group Code Pink, who are currently visiting Pakistan to protest drone strikes and build on-the-ground solidarity with Pakistanis, condemned the shooting and offered $1,000 to Yousafazi's school. They stated in a release:

The delegates see a connection between drone attacks and growing extremism in Pakistan. A recent report from Stanford University called drone attacks an effective “recruiting tool” for extremists. “We oppose all forms of terrorism,” said delegate leader Tighe Barry, “and we stand with the people of Pakistan who are fighting for both national sovereignty and individual freedoms.”

Concerns remain about whether Yousafazi will make a full physical recovery and whether she can remain in Pakistan safely now that she is, more than ever, a Taliban target.




By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Drones Islam Malala Yousafzai Pakistan Taliban Women's Rights