A few years ago when I was in the 12th grade, I heard the shocking news that Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban. That night, I asked my father about her, and he explained how she had sacrificed herself to struggle for girls’ education in a village in Pakistan. At the time I was preparing myself for the college entrance examinations and her bravery motivated me to learn more about her.
I know now that it was Malala’s bravery that threatened her life. She was only eleven years old and expressed her ideas without any fear.
It is strange that she comes from our part of the world, but it is the Nobel Prize that introduced her bravery to us.
Her bravery was not detected in a warzone, but in her anti-violent manner and in her message of peace. Her bravery helped people move from darkness to light, from ignorance to conscientiousness.
It is hard to understand when the gunmen stopped the schoolbus, one of them got on the bus and yelled, “Who is Malala? If you don’t answer, I will kill you all.” Malala did not hide, but introduced herself to her attackers.
We did not understand her bravery when she was almost sacrificed that October day. She was like a delicate flower when she was shot in her head and neck. Everyone thought that like the other flowers of the garden, she would be gone and forgotten.
Fortunately she recovered, after which the world introduced her bravery to us. I think it is strange that we could have celebrated her bravery before October 2012, but we did not.
As we commemorate the Nobel Prize to Malala, I hope we can also celebrate the bravery of all our Afghan children, mothers, fathers, men and women before they are introduced to us by a prize given by the West.
It is a pity that the Afghan people talk about Malala only because the media popularized her. She received the Nobel and Sakharov prizes and the world knows her birthday. Often we do not see the brave people who are all around us until we have lost them.
There are women in Afghanistan who deserve the Nobel Prize, such as Nahid Shahid, the girl who sacrificed herself for the education of girls in Kabul. A school is named for her. Afghan rights activists Ghaffar Khan and Sima Samar have been recognized worldwide for their work in education and the social affairs of the Afghan migrants. But politicians and political systems in Afghanistan usually do not appreciate the accomplishments of women.
Photo: Freida Pinto and Malala Yousafzai take part in a youth discussion at the Girl Summit 2014. Jessica Lea/Department for International Development