Malala’s Visit to Swat Valley, Pakistan

By Caroline Jung

     Malala Yousafzai, a twenty year old pakistani woman, is an activist for girls’ education and empowerment. There were already problems from the Taliban, and Malala even had to risk her life for her belief. Yet through these struggles, she is the youngest person to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. Recently, she visited her hometown for the first time since the Taliban had attacked her. Her struggles between the Taliban were burdening and can also be read from her book, I am Malala. The Taliban are a group of religious people that enforced strict laws even including public executions mostly over Afghanistan. Harsh interpretation of the Islamic Sharia law caused them to brutally treat many civilians, especially women. In 2007, the Taliban took control of Swat Valley, a part of Pakistan, and started to ban things like owning a TV or playing music.

     Malala grew up in the Swat Valley, or the “Switzerland of Asia,” where the Taliban had control over. Though having a baby girl wasn’t celebrated upon, her father, a teacher, promised her from a young age that she would go to school and have every opportunity that a boy would have. However, in 2008, the Taliban banned girls from going to school and Malala started to write about life under the Taliban using a pseudonym. In 2009, the militans and their leader of the Taliban were driven out because of a military campaign. Since this, residents of the valley has lived relatively a normal life. However, they point out that security measures are far from ideal as the military has been in the valley for a long time and has put burdening security checks.

     Malala still feared attack from speaking against the Taliban. Soon enough, because of her popularity, in 2012, Malala was riding the school bus home when a Taliban militant asked who she was and shot her. She got medical treatment in Pakistan and Britain where she currently lives, studying at the University of Oxford, to continue her work. Recently, Malala visited the Swat Valley with her family and under heavy security. It was a moment of both happiness and sadness. After her visit, she said that she was proud of her land and culture. The residents overall agreed that peace had returned to the valley, because the schools were open and there was an absence of the Taliban. During Malala’s visit, she congratulated the Pakistani Army for forcing the Taliban out of Swat Valley and letting her receive medical treatment.

     Though Malala is known all over the world, many Pakistanis view her as a Western stooge. However, Malala doesn’t understand why people had turned against her when she was just trying to help girls get an education and live better lives. However, Malala will still continue to advocate for girls’ education and women’s empowerment.