Malala recounts how she volunteered to write an exposé diary for the BBC Urdu website after Abdul Hai Kakar (a Peshawar BBC radio correspondent) contacted her father. To protect her identity, Malala used a pseudonym, Gul Makai. She wrote about her fear of going to school, about the Taliban's edict against wearing colorful dresses, and about the tediousness of wearing a burqa. Even though Malala spoke out daringly through her words, others in her valley were intimidated by the Taliban. Many teachers stopped teaching altogether, and some students left the Khushal School. Malala relates that the school closed on January 14, 2009, one day before the Taliban deadline for closing all girls' schools.
Malala and her father eventually participated in the making of a New York Times documentary about the Taliban incursion into the Swat Valley. Both were interviewed by Irfan Ashraf (a Pakistani journalist) and Adam Ellick (an American video journalist). For the respective documentaries, Malala recalls emphasizing that education is every child’s right. To Malala, education is the birthright of every human being and is neither Western nor Eastern in nature. Malala also recalls how Shiza Shahid, a Stanford University student from Islamabad, offered to support her campaign for universal education after viewing the New York Times documentary Class Dismissed in Swat Valley.
Abdul Hai Kakar's secret talks with Fazlullah resulted in the Taliban lifting the school ban for girls up to ten years old (Year 4). Malala remembers that many of her classmates pretended to be Year 4 students so that they could return to school. Then, on February 16, 2009, the Pakistani government brokered a temporary truce with the Taliban. In exchange for instituting Sharia law in the Swat Valley, the Taliban agreed to stop fighting. Malala recalls that many people had their hopes dashed when they discovered that the Taliban had no actual intentions of ceasing its reign of terror. A more permanent ceasefire was then agreed upon on February 22, 2009. However, the formal peace treaty actually reinforced the Taliban as a state-sanctioned political entity.
Things took a turn for the worse. Now, members of the Taliban could openly perpetrate violent acts on women and forcibly curtail further civilian freedoms; even Sufi Mohammad's violent rhetoric against Western democracy alarmed President Obama. With 70% of the Swat Valley under Taliban control and every indication that the Taliban intended to take Islamabad, President Obama discussed sending American troops to Pakistan to protect its 200 nuclear warheads from falling into the hands of the terror group. Meanwhile, the Pakistani Army launched Operation True Path to drive the Taliban out of Swat Valley. Despite the fighting, however, Ziauddin decided against moving his family to a safer area.
In Chapter 13, Malala expounds upon the suffering women endure under a Taliban regime. To the Taliban, an acknowledgement of female agency is an unacceptable capitulation to Western ideals of freedom. In a Taliban regime, women are required to wear the burqa (a full body covering) and to guard against wearing make-up, perfume, high heels, nail polish, and colorful clothing. Any woman who exposes her ankles and refuses to comply with the Taliban's dress code is subjected to a public flogging. Under the rules of purdah, women and girls cannot attend school or engage in politics or business. In fact, the windows of a home have to be painted over so that men cannot view its female inhabitants from the outside.
In Pakistan, the burqa is both a tool for control and an instrument of disguise for would-be suicide bombers. To the Taliban, a woman's...
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face is a corrupting influence to men; thus, it must be covered. It is noteworthy that Malala fights the Taliban with written words. Her actions demonstrate that, while a woman's face may remain hidden, her voice cannot be silenced. The written word is a powerful weapon against the Taliban's brand of religious totalitarianism. The terror group may continue its bombing campaign against boys' and girls' schools, but it is powerless to stem the spread of progressive ideas through the power of the pen. By exploring the cultural and political implications of Malala's story, we are led to appreciate the depth of Malala's courage and the significance of her work.
In Chapter 14, Malala recounts that a teenage girl was whipped 34 times for leaving her house with a man who was not her husband. Although this chapter continues Malala's account of the Taliban's abuse of women, it also highlights how radical Islam affects communities on a national and global scale. The idiom "there cannot be two swords in one sheath" perfectly illustrates the idea that a divided country is a weakened civilization. In Pakistan, there are indeed two swords in the political sheath: the secular Pakistani government and the Taliban. This pits liberal progressives like Ziauddin against religious ideologues such as Sufi Mohammad.
On an international scale, Pakistan's strained relationships with both the Taliban and Afghanistan are a source of concern for Washington. Pakistan has long feared that a nuclear-powered India will use its relationship with Afghanistan to perpetrate terrorist attacks on Pakistani civilians. Also, the newly strengthened energy alliance between India and Iran has worried Pakistan. To date, India is Iran's second largest importer of oil. Both India and Iran constitute the two largest concentrations of Shias in the world, and Sunni-majority Pakistan considers both of them threats. To date, Pakistan is unwilling to focus on Washington's objectives in Afghanistan. Instead, it prefers to concentrate on neutralizing the immediate threats that stem from a strong India-Iran alliance. Meanwhile, Washington is left frustrated: despite billions of dollars in aid, Pakistan has done little to counteract the Afghan Taliban threat against American and NATO troops. This chapter's focus on warring national ideologies and conflicting global interests reinforce the challenges inherent in the war against militant Islam.