Her school uniform says it all — stained with blood, it is a painful symbol of sacrifice. It is the uniform young Malala Yousafzai was wearing on an October day two years ago when the Pakistani Taliban shot her for advocating a girl’s right to an education.
History’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner said this month that she donated her dark-blue-and-white uniform for the 2014 Peace Prize exhibition in Oslo because “it is an important part of my life.”
“Now I want to show it to children, to people all around the world,” Yousafzai, 17, said in an interview conducted for the exhibition. “This is my right, it is the right of every child, to go to school. This should not be neglected.”
On Wednesday, Yousafzai is to accept her Nobel at a ceremony in Oslo. Her very survival and her accomplishments since the shooting – including addresses at the United Nations and the World Bank, writing a book and establishing a foundation – would seem to guarantee that the cause won’t be neglected. But stopping the Islamist extremists bent on suppressing equal rights for girls and women is another matter.
The Pakistani Taliban has continued blowing up schools for girls in Pakistan’s tribal areas, and, across the border, the Afghan Taliban has conducted poison attacks on schools to discourage attendance.
(And we hardly need to mention Nigeria’s Boko Haram – a band of girl-kidnapping fanatics whose very name characterizes Western education as a sin in their version of Islam.)
“Malala is the symbol of the infidels and obscenity,” a Pakistani Taliban spokesman said the day his movement asserted responsibility for sending a gunman to kill a schoolgirl. Actually, they could not have picked a better symbol to undermine their own cause.
Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, summed it up in a tweet the day the Nobel was announced.
“Who is Malala?” the gunman asked 2 years ago when he boarded the bus, seeking to kill the girl who wanted to learn. Now everyone knows.
— Samantha Power (@AmbassadorPower) October 10, 2014
Indeed we do.