The least known side of the young Pakistani Malala Yousafzai is the most interesting one. The 17-year old activist has been a well-known media figure about her remarkable strength in standing up for girls’ rights to education in Pakistan and the subsequent assassination attempt against her on the school bus from Taliban members in 2012. Lately, on October 10th, media praised her again since she became the youngest ever awarded Nobel Peace Prize winner for what the Nobel committee called “heroic struggle” for girls’ right to an education. She won along with Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian children’s rights activist. The Nobel Price Committee, holding the notorious fame of contributing the Peace Award to controversial figures like Henry Kissinger and Barack Obama, chose to emphasize on specific aspects of Malala’s actions while others related to her political views and her criticism against militarism never made it the news headlines.
In October 2013, Malala met with Barack Obama in Washington where she didn’t hesitate to express her warnings about the impact of CIA drone strikes on Pakistan. Since 2004 at least 2,400 to max 4.000 people have died in CIA 405 drone strikes in the tribal region of north-west Pakistan as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism cites. As the number of US drone strikes in Pakistan hits 400, research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism finds that fewer than 4% of the people killed have been identified by available records as named members of al Qaeda. Malala stated in the aftermath of her meeting with the US president that “I thanked President Obama for the United States’ work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees”. Her statement doesn’t end up there though. “I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fuelling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact”, she said.
This statement went highly underreported. At the same time, her efforts towards education are always highlighted by the media. A Pakistani girl, being attacked by the Islamist terrorist organization appears to suit the war on terror dominant news’ narrative. The violence towards women’s rights in the developing world is considered newsworthy as well. Although when Malala expresses her views over global poverty, capitalism itself or supports socialist beliefs, media don’t share the same amount of excitement about the Nobel Prize holder. Malala in 2013 wrote from Birmingham, where she is currently living in, a message to the Pakistan’s International Marxist Tendency (IMT), branch of the international Trotskyist Tendency: “I am convinced that socialism is the only answer, and I urge all comrades to struggle to a victorious conclusion. Only this will free us from the chains of bigotry and exploitation”. In July 2013, she stated among others to the United Nations Youth Assembly on ‘Malala Day’ that we must not forget that millions of people are suffering from poverty and injustice and ignorance.
This year Malala managed to prevail among the 278 candidates, including the US whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and Pope Francis. Fredrik Heffermehl is the author of “The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted,” and strong opposer of the Nobel Prize Committee. On October 10th, quoted by Swanson in an article in Counter Currents website, he emphasized the failure of the organization to portray Yousafzai’s holistic picture. Heffermehl said “I do hope that Malala will stick to her early concerns of the problem of militarism. There are signs that her helpers and advisors have turned her away from the delicate issues of militarism and over to the safer issue of education. By moving her away from the Nobel idea of global disarmament she has become more palatable to the Nobel committee.”
The young Pakistani activist has received controversial criticism. Her decisions of settling in the UK in the aftermath of her attack in Swat Valley in 2012 and her meeting with Barack Obama lead many commentators to accuse her of becoming a Westerner. She is answering that she is a Pakistani daughter. Malala supports that people from her country should stand up and fight for their rights without expecting the assistance of any external Western savior. In her letter to the International Marxist Tendency she concludes: “I just want to say in terms of education, as well as other problems in Pakistan, it is high time that we did something to tackle them ourselves. It’s important to take the initiative. We cannot wait around for anyone else to come and do it. Why are we waiting for someone else to come and fix things? Why aren’t we doing it ourselves?”