“Brave” Taliban Gunmen Shoot Fourteen-Year-Old Girl in Head Because She Dares to Blog About School

Three years ago, at the age of 11, Malala Yousafzai gained attention for her outspoken defense of education for girls in the face of Taliban oppression that vowed to bar girls from schools in the Swat Valley region of Pakistan where she lives. Yesterday, Taliban gunmen, who were so cowardly that they hid behind masks, boarded Malala’s bus after school and shot her in the head. Doctors have removed the bullet, but she remains in critical condition as of the most recent reports.

Today’s New York Times article on the shooting reproduces at its top a 30 minute documentary the Times produced in 2009 featuring Malala. The Times also carried the Taliban’s remarks on the shooting:

A Taliban spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, confirmed by phone Tuesday that Ms. Yousafzai had been the target, calling her crusade for education rights an “obscenity.”

“She has become a symbol of Western culture in the area; she was openly propagating it,” Mr. Ehsan said, adding that if she survived, the militants would certainly try to kill her again. “Let this be a lesson.”

Reuters has more from the Taliban:

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack saying Yousufzai was “pro-West”, had been promoting Western culture and had been speaking out against them.

They justified shooting her by citing instances from the Koran when a child or woman was killed.

“Any female that, by any means, plays a role in the war against mujahideen should be killed,” said Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan, using the term for Islamic holy warriors to refer to the Taliban.

“We are dead against co-education and a secular education system.”

Pakistan’s leaders have been quick to condemn this atrocious attack.

Of course, this sort of thing could not happen in the United States. Or could it? Consider for a minute that we have a House Science Committee that is dominated by science deniers whose denial of science is driven in part by religious fundamentalism. We also had a nearly successful candidate in the Republican primary who made the bashing of secularism one of his favorite topics. Perhaps this tragedy should serve as a reminder that theocratic violence is wrong and should be countered at all times.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
8 replies
  1. phred says:

    Jim, you follow the Middle East more closely than I do… I saw an article in the Guardian yesterday that suggested this act may be a tipping point with the Taliban having gone too far resulting in Pakistanis pushing back. I’m curious whether you get the same sense from the coverage you have seen.

    It seems to me that they key to defeating theocrats is for local communities to reject their extremism. As you note, we need to reject extremists here at home, just as Pakistanis need to reject theirs.

  2. Jim White says:

    @phred: I don’t know about tipping points, but one interesting point is that critics of this weekend’s “Peace March” against drones were saying that those in the protest weren’t doing enough to condemn Taliban violence. Yesterday, Imran Khan, who led the protest, announced that he was willing to pay all of Malala’s medical expenses as he condemned the shooting. The other interesting point is that the shooting has put Pakistan’s military and its civilian government on the same side of an issue, which does stand out as a significant development.

  3. phred says:

    @Jim White: Thanks Jim. IIRC a big part of the problem with truly rooting out the Taliban in Pakistan is due to a certain ambivalence on the part of upper echelons in the military and in the intelligence services. Perhaps shooting a schoolgirl in the head is a step too far, even for them.

  4. harpie says:

    @Joe: Perfect example.

    ..more “big-government” beaurocratic than the Taliban’s approach-but a “brave” shot to the head, non the less.

  5. greengiant says:

    Tipping point? If it’s not the Taliban, it is the Sunnis and Shias fighting each other, and if not them, it is the persecution of any minority, Christian, Sufi or whomever in Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, etc.

  6. MaryCh says:

    Apologies if this is a ‘duh’ comment, but the response to violation of subgroup mores brought the killing of Dr. Tiller immediately to mind.

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