Editor’s note: Pakistani teenage blogger Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head on October 9, 2012, by Pakistani Taliban on her way home from school because of her outspokenness about girls’ education. She is recovering in England.

When I heard about the shooting of fifteen-year-old Malala by Taliban gunmen in Pakistan in October I could picture the Taliban in my mind vividly. It was selfish, but my first thoughts were about myself. If Taliban gunmen were to shoot me in the street, how would I feel? My heart pounded. I thought of my family. They might not be safe enough.

My younger sister, who goes to school every day—what would happen to her? What would happen if the Taliban began searching for Afghan women bloggers and found this website? What if they target us next time?

These questions are with me every day. I wake up and see that we are one day closer to 2014 when American troops will leave. I wish they would stay. What will happen when they are gone? Maybe something worse than the fears I carry in my thoughts.

I wish I was smart and brave enough to do more than blogging—to do something like Malala. I also wish I didn’t have to; that I could avoid this big mess. I wish I was brave enough to shout for freedom and demand my rights, to call out to people around the world and ask for justice.

But I am afraid.

It is not because I am weak; it is because I love my family, my country, and my safety. Love brings fear and fear does not let me be brave. Fear makes me shiver, makes me cautious. I wish I could stand up, ignore my fear, say what I want to say, and protect what I need to protect.

I am not asking for help. The only thing I am asking is to be left alone. I want to be able to walk in my own streets without fear, without being followed, and without feeling bad about my country. I want to be proud of it. Let me be.

Many Afghan girls share Malala’s hardship. Some are worse off. Malala could raise her voice, at least. The voices of girls are silenced every day in Afghanistan. Most girls cannot even think of going to school. Seeking knowledge is forbidden by the Taliban, whose name means “knowledge seekers” in Arabic.

I believe the Afghan girls who cannot raise their voices today will lead Afghanistan tomorrow. I ask the Taliban: How will you oppose thousands of girls standing up for their rights? You can kill one of us, you can kill two of us, but can you kill all of us?

We will make Afghanistan a place to live and love without fear, without war—without the Taliban. Afghan girls, who deal with the violence and fear imposed by the Taliban every day, may be the bravest girls in the world.

By Fatima H.