Trump on Friday signed orders not only to suspend admission of all refugees into the United States for 120 days but also to implement “new vetting measures” to screen out “radical Islamic terrorists.” Refugee entry from Syria, however, would be suspended indefinitely, and all travel from Syria and six other nations — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen — are suspended for 90 days. Trump also said he would give priority to Christian refugees over those of other religions.
Referring to those criteria, Malala called out Trump for discriminating against children from those countries who have found themselves helplessly caught up in war.
“I am heartbroken that Syrian refugee children, who have suffered through six years of war by no fault of their own, are singled-out for discrimination,” she wrote.
Malala referred to a friend named Zaynab, who had fled wars in Somalia, Yemen and Egypt before age 17. Two years ago, Zaynab received a visa to go to the United States, where she learned English, graduated high school and is now in college studying to be a human rights lawyer, Malala wrote.
“Zaynab was separated from her little sister when she fled unrest in Egypt,” Malala wrote. “Today her hope of being reunited with her precious sister dims. In this time of uncertainty and unrest around the world, I ask President Trump not to turn his back on the world’s most defenseless children and families.”
From as early as 11 years old, Malala began blogging for BBC Urdu about life under extremist Taliban control in northwest Pakistan, where many schools had been destroyed and girls were at times banned from getting an education.
She was only 15 when, in 2012, Taliban gunman boarded her school bus in Swat, Pakistan, asked for her by name, then shot her in the head.
Malala not only survived the gunshot, but went on to continue speaking out for children's rights and the importance of education for girls in developing countries. In 2013, she co-founded the Malala Fund, a nonprofit organization whose goal is “a world where all girls can learn for 12 years and lead without fear.”
In 2014, Malala became the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee praised Malala for her “heroic struggle” under “the most dangerous circumstances” in jointly awarding her the prize with Indian children's rights advocate Kailash Satyarthi.
Malala's powerful acceptance speech — and many others around the world since — drew standing ovations and moved many to tears.
“This award is not just for me,” Malala said at the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo. “It is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change.”
She continued by pleading for change and saying that her voice represented millions of girls around the world “deprived of education” because of war, poverty or simple injustice based on gender.
“Dear sisters and brothers, the so-called world of adults may understand it, but we children don't. Why is it that countries which we call strong are so powerful in creating wars but are so weak in bringing peace?” Malala asked. “Why is it that giving guns is so easy but giving books is so hard? Why is it, why is it that making tanks is so easy, but building schools is so hard?”
Malala has since continued speaking out against both Muslim extremists who are “misusing the name of Islam” and those who would discriminate against Muslims — including the newly inaugurated president.
In December 2015, when Trump first called for a Muslim ban early in the presidential campaign, Malala decried his comments as “full of hatred.”
“Well, that's really tragic that you hear these comments which are full of hatred, full of this ideology of being discriminative towards others,” Malala told AFP.
I am heartbroken that today President Trump is closing the door on children, mothers and fathers fleeing violence and war. I am heartbroken that America is turning its back on a proud history of welcoming refugees and immigrants — the people who helped build your country, ready to work hard in exchange for a fair chance at a new life.
I am heartbroken that Syrian refugee children, who have suffered through six years of war by no fault of their own, are singled-out for discrimination.
I am heartbroken for girls like my friend Zaynab, who fled wars in three countries — Somalia, Yemen and Egypt — before she was even 17. Two years ago she received a visa to come to the United States. She learned English, graduated high school and is now in college studying to be a human rights lawyer.
Zaynab was separated from her little sister when she fled unrest in Egypt. Today her hope of being reunited with her precious sister dims.
In this time of uncertainty and unrest around the world, I ask President Trump not to turn his back on the world’s most defenseless children and families.