Malala Yousafzai and her family belong to a proud Pashtun community in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. Though the birth of female children isn’t often celebrated in Malala’s culture, Malala's father, Ziauddin, is a staunch defender of women's rights and was delighted. Malala tells us that he named her after an Afghan heroine, Malalai of Maiwand, who was crucial to the Afghan victory against the British in the Second Anglo-Afghan War. Ziauddin is also the owner and principal of the school Malala attends. The Khushal School is rare in its focus on science, women's rights, and literature, all subjects forbidden by the Taliban. After a devastating earthquake in the Swat Valley, mullahs from the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Sharia-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), or Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law, warned that the Swat Valley was under God's judgment. The mullahs called for the implementation of Sharia Law, claiming that "women's freedom and obscenity" had insulted Allah.
Malala was ten when the Taliban took over the Swat Valley. Members of the TNSM ingratiated themselves with Malala's Pashtun community by portraying themselves as saviors dedicated to rooting out government corruption. The TNSM openly advocated Sharia law and eventually outlawed dancing, music, CDs, TVs, and movies. Members of the TNSM began intimidating unaccompanied women or girls in public places. They also made death threats against Ziauddin for educating girls. Eventually, the TNSM united with other Taliban groups and declared war on the Pakistani government. The group set up public flogging sessions and assassinated government officials. The Taliban destroyed school buildings and demanded that girls stop...
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