By choosing to empower herself, her friends, and her fellow children, Malala poses an imminent threat to governments and power structures which operate without the informed consent of the governed.
“All I want is education, and I am afraid of no one.” – Malala Yousafzai
In 2009, Malala Yousafzai, at the request of the BBC, began to keep a diary of her experiences as an 11-year-old girl trying to go to school in the Taliban-controlled Swat valley region of Pakistan. She wrote it under the nom de plume Gul Makai, a folk hero who uses the Quran to persuade her elders to end their tribal war, allowing peace and love to triumph. The diary, which chronicles her determined and courageous pursuit of education, is the reason she was targeted for assassination.
In 2014, Yousafzai, along with Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi, won the Nobel Peace Prize for “joining in the common struggle for education and against extremism.” Her book, I Am Malala, is currently banned in over 190,000 schools in her native Pakistan.
There are numerous excuses for banning books. None of them can withstand close scrutiny, because there is only one true reason for banning books: knowledge is power. By choosing to empower herself, her friends, and her fellow children, Malala poses an eminent threat to governments and power structures which operate without the informed consent of the governed. This is, in one sense, what it means to be a rogue, and this publication is proud to amplify Malala’s call for justice.
The text of her BBC blog, which was instrumental in defeating the Taliban in the Swat valley region in 2009, which is tremendously interesting, and which is in no way threatening or demeaning to her countrymen or her fellow Muslims, is reprinted below.
SATURDAY 3 JANUARY: I AM AFRAID
I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taleban. I have had such dreams since the launch of the military operation in Swat. My mother made me breakfast and I went off to school. I was afraid going to school because the Taleban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools.
Only 11 students attended the class out of 27. The number decreased because of Taleban’s edict. My three friends have shifted to Peshawar, Lahore and Rawalpindi with their families after this edict.
On my way from school to home I heard a man saying ‘I will kill you’. I hastened my pace and after a while I looked back if the man was still coming behind me. But to my utter relief he was talking on his mobile and must have been threatening someone else over the phone.
SUNDAY 4 JANUARY: I HAVE TO GO TO SCHOOL
Today is a holiday and I woke up late, around 10 am. I heard my father talking about another three bodies lying at Green Chowk (crossing). I felt bad on hearing this news. Before the launch of the military operation we all used to go to Marghazar, Fiza Ghat and Kanju for picnics on Sundays. But now the situation is such that we have not been out on picnic for over a year and a half.
We also used to go for a walk after dinner but now we are back home before sunset. Today I did some household chores, my homework and played with my brother. But my heart was beating fast – as I have to go to school tomorrow.
MONDAY 5 JANUARY: DO NOT WEAR COLOURFUL DRESSES
I was getting ready for school and about to wear my uniform when I remembered that our principal had told us not to wear uniforms – and come to school wearing normal clothes instead. So I decided to wear my favourite pink dress. Other girls in school were also wearing colourful dresses and the school presented a homely look.
My friend came to me and said, ‘for God’s sake, answer me honestly, is our school going to be attacked by the Taleban?’ During the morning assembly we were told not to wear colourful clothes as the Taleban would object to it.
I came back from school and had tuition sessions after lunch. In the evening I switched on the TV and heard that curfew had been lifted from Shakardra after 15 days. I was happy to hear that because our English teacher lived in the area and she might be coming to school now.
WEDNESDAY 7 JANUARY: NO FIRING OR FEAR
I have come to Bunair to spend Muharram (a Muslim holiday) on vacation. I adore Bunair because of its mountains and lush green fields. My Swat is also very beautiful but there is no peace. But in Bunair there is peace and tranquillity. Neither is there any firing nor any fear. We all are very happy.
Today we went to Pir Baba mausoleum and there were lots of people there. People are here to pray while we are here for an excursion. There are shops selling bangles, ear rings, lockets and other artificial jewellery. I thought of buying something but nothing impressed – my mother bought ear rings and bangles.
FRIDAY 9 JANUARY: THE MAULANA GOES ON LEAVE?
Today at school I told my friends about my trip to Bunair. They said that they were sick and tired of hearing the Bunair story. We discussed the rumours about the death of Maulana Shah Dauran, who used to give speeches on FM radio. He was the one who announced the ban on girls attending school.
Some girls said that he was dead but others disagreed. The rumours of his death are circulating because he did not deliver a speech the night before on FM radio. One girl said that he had gone on leave.
Since there was no tuition on Friday, I played the whole afternoon. I switched on the TV in the evening and heard about the blasts in Lahore. I said to myself ‘why do these blasts keep happening in Pakistan?’
WEDNESDAY 14 JANUARY: I MAY NOT GO TO SCHOOL AGAIN
I was in a bad mood while going to school because winter vacations are starting from tomorrow. The principal announced the vacations but did not mention the date the school was to reopen. This was the first time this has happened.
In the past the reopening date was always announced clearly. The principal did not inform us about the reason behind not announcing the school reopening, but my guess was that the Taleban had announced a ban on girls’ education from 15 January.
This time round, the girls were not too excited about vacations because they knew if the Taleban implemented their edict they would not be able to come to school again. Some girls were optimistic that the schools would reopen in February but others said that their parents had decided to shift from Swat and go to other cities for the sake of their education.
Since today was the last day of our school, we decided to play in the playground a bit longer. I am of the view that the school will one day reopen but while leaving I looked at the building as if I would not come here again.
THURSDAY JANUARY 15: NIGHT FILLED WITH ARTILLERY FIRE
The night was filled with the noise of artillery fire and I woke up three times. But since there was no school I got up later at 10 am. Afterwards, my friend came over and we discussed our homework.
Today is 15 January, the last day before the Taleban’s edict comes into effect, and my friend was discussing homework as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
Today, I also read the diary written for the BBC (in Urdu) and published in the newspaper. My mother liked my pen name ‘Gul Makai’ and said to my father ‘why not change her name to Gul Makai?’ I also like the name because my real name means ‘grief stricken’.
My father said that some days ago someone brought the printout of this diary saying how wonderful it was. My father said that he smiled but could not even say that it was written by his daughter.
FRIDAY 18 JANUARY: NO POLICE IN SIGHT
My father told us that the government would protect our schools. The prime minister has also raised this issue. I was quite happy initially, but now I know but this will not solve our problem. Here in Swat we hear everyday that so many soldiers were killed and so many were kidnapped at such and such place. But the police are nowhere to be seen.
Our parents are also very scared. They told us they would not send us to school until or unless the Taleban themselves announce on the FM channel that girls can go to school. The army is also responsible for the disruption in our education.
Today a boy from our locality went to school and he was told by the principal to go back home because a curfew was to be imposed soon. But when he reached home he came to know that there was no curfew, instead his school was closed down because the army was to move through the road near his school.
MONDAY 19 JANUARY: ARMY IN THEIR BUNKERS
Five more schools have been destroyed, one of them was near my house. I am quite surprised, because these schools were closed so why did they also need to be destroyed? No one has gone to school following the deadline given by the Taleban.
Today I went to my friend’s house and she told me that a few days back someone killed Maulana Shah Dauran’s uncle; she said that it may be that the Taleban destroyed the schools in anger at this.
She also said that no one has made the Taleban suffer but when they are hurt they take it out on our schools. But the army is not doing anything about it. They are sitting in their bunkers on top of the hills. They slaughter goats and eat with pleasure.
THURSDAY 22 JANUARY : VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION
I am quite bored sitting at home following the closures of schools.
Some of my friends have left Swat because the situation here is very dangerous. I do not leave home. At night Maulana Shah Dauran (the Taleban cleric who announced the ban on girls attending school) once again warned females not to leave home.
He also warned that they would blow up those schools which are used by the security forces as security posts.
Father told us that security forces have arrived at the boys’ and girls’ school in Haji Baba area. May God keep them safe. Maulana Shah Dauran also said in his speech on FM radio that three ‘thieves’ will be lashed tomorrow and whoever wants to see can come and watch.
I am surprised that when we have suffered so much, why people still go and watch such things? Why also doesn’t the army stop them from carrying out such acts? I have seen wherever the army is there is usually a Taleban member nearby, but where there is a Taleban member the army will always not go.
SATURDAY 24 JANUARY: NO NAMES ON THE HONOURS BOARD
Our annual exams are due after the vacations but this will only be possible if the Taleban allow girls to go to school. We were told to prepare certain chapters for the exam but I do not feel like studying.
As from yesterday the army has taken control of the educational institutions for protection. It seems that it is only when dozens of schools have been destroyed and hundreds others closed down that the army thinks about protecting them. Had they conducted their operations here properly, this situation would not have arisen.
Muslim Khan (a Swat Taleban spokesman) has said that those schools housing the army would be attacked. We will be more afraid of having the army in our schools than ever. There is a board in our school which is called the Honours Board. The name of the girl achieving the highest marks in annual exams is put on this board. It seems that no names will be put on it this year.
SATURDAY 24 JANUARY: ‘MAKING A GRAVE’
The only good thing that has come out of the war in Swat is that our father has taken us away from Mingora (the largest city in the Swat valley) to many other cities. We arrived in Peshawar from Islamabad yesterday. In Peshawar we had tea at one of our relative’s houses before travelling to Bannu.
My five-year-old brother was playing on the lawn. When my father asked him what he was playing, he replied ‘I am making a grave’.
Later we went to a bus stand to travel to Bannu. The wagon was old and the driver was using his horn excessively. On our way the vehicle hit a pot-hole – and at the same time the horn started blowing – waking up my 10-year-old brother.
He was very scared and asked our mother: ‘Was it a bomb blast?’
On arrival in Bannu, we found my father’s friend waiting for us. He is also a Pashtun but his family spoke a Bannu dialect so we could not understand him clearly.
We went to the bazaar and then to the park. Here women have to wear a veil – called a shuttle veil – whenever they leave their homes. My mother also wore one but I refused to wear one on the grounds that I found it difficult to walk with it on.
Compared with Swat, there is relative peace in Bannu. Our hosts told us that there was a Taleban presence was in the area but there was not as much unrest as in Swat. They said that the Taleban had threatened to close down the schools, but they were still open.
MONDAY 26 JANUARY: HELICOPTER TOFFEES
I woke to the roar of heavy artillery fire early in the morning. Earlier we were afraid of the noise of helicopters and now the artillery. I remember the first time when helicopters flew over our house on the start of an operation. We got so scared that we hid.
All the children in my neighbourhood were also very scared.
One day toffees were thrown from the helicopters and this continued for some time. Now whenever we hear the choppers flying we run out and wait for the toffees but it does not happen anymore. A while back my father gave us the good news that he was taking all of us to Islamabad tomorrow. We are very happy.
WEDNESDAY 28 JANUARY: TEARS IN THE EYES OF MY PARENTS
My father fulfilled his promise and we reached Islamabad yesterday. On our way from Swat I was very scared because we had heard that the Taleban conduct searches. But nothing of the sort happened to us. It was instead the army who conducted the search. The moment we left Swat our fears also subsided.
We are staying with our father’s friend in Islamabad. It is my first visit to the city. It’s beautiful with nice bungalows and wide roads. But as compared to my Swat city it lacks natural beauty. Father took us to Lok Virsa museum and I learnt a lot. We also have such a museum in Swat but I don’t know if it will remain undamaged from the fighting.
My father bought popcorn from an old man outside Lok Virsa. When the vendor spoke to us in Pashtu my father asked him if he was from Islamabad. The old man replied: “Do you think Islamabad can ever belong to Pashtuns?”
He said that he hailed from Momand Agency, but because of an ongoing military operation was forced to leave his abode and head for the city. At that moment I saw tears in my parents’ eyes.
SATURDAY 31 JANUARY: WHO WILL AVENGE THOSE KILLED?
On our way back to Peshawar from Bannu I received a call from my friend.
She was very scared and told me that the situation in Swat was getting worse and I should not come back. She told me that the military operation has intensified and 37 people have been killed only today in the shelling.
We arrived in Peshawar in the evening and were very tired. I switched on the TV and there was a report on Swat. The channel was showing empty-handed people migrating on foot from Swat.
I switched the channel and a woman was saying “we will avenge the murder of Benazir Bhutto”. I asked my father who would avenge the deaths of hundreds of people of Swat.
MONDAY 2 FEBRUARY: SCHOOL CLOSED ON TALEBAN ORDERS
I am upset because the schools are still closed here in Swat.
Our school was supposed to open today. On waking up I realised the school was still closed and that was very upsetting. In the past we used to enjoy ourselves on school closure. But this is not the case this time because I am afraid that the school may not reopen at all on the orders of the Taleban.
My father told me that following the closure of private girls’ schools, private schools for boys had decided not to open until 8 February. In this regard notices have appeared outside the schools saying that they will reopen on 9 February. My father said that because no such notices have been displayed outside girls’ schools, that meant they would not be re-opening.
SATURDAY 7 FEBRUARY: EERIE SILENCE
My brother and myself left for Mingora in the afternoon. My mother had already gone there. I was happy and scared at the same time at the thought of going back after 20 days. Before entering Mingora, there was an eerie silence in Qambar.
There was no one else besides people with long hair and beards. From their appearance they looked like Taleban. I saw some houses damaged due to shelling.
The streets of Mingora were thin. We went to supermarket to buy a gift for our mother but it was closed, whereas earlier it used to remain open till late. Many other shops were also closed. We had not informed our mother about our plans to go back to Mingora because we wanted to surprise her. As we entered the house she was quite surprised.
SUNDAY 8 FEBRUARY: SCHOOL MEMORIES
I am sad watching my uniform, school bag and geometry box.
I felt hurt on opening my wardrobe and seeing my uniform, school bag and geometry box. Boys’ schools are opening tomorrow. But the Taleban have banned girls’ education.
The memories of my school flashed before me, especially the arguments among the girls.
My brother’s school is also reopening and he has not done his homework. He is worried and does not want to go to school. My mother mentioned a curfew tomorrow and my brother asked her if it was really going to be imposed. When my mother replied in the affirmative he started dancing with joy.
MONDAY 9 FEBRUARY: PRECARIOUS
Boys’ schools in Swat have reopened and the Taleban have lifted restrictions on girls’ primary education – therefore they are also attending schools. In our school there is co-education until primary level.
My younger brother told us that out of 49 students only six attended his school including a girl. In my school, only a total of 70 pupils attended out of 700 students who are enrolled.
Today the maid came. She normally comes once a week to wash our clothes.
She comes from Attock district but she has been living in this area for years now. She told us that the situation in Swat has become “very precarious” and that her husband has told her to go back to Attock.
People do not leave their homeland on their own free will – only poverty or a lover usually makes you leave so rapidly.
WEDNESDAY 11 FEBRUARY: EXPLOSION WARNINGS
I was scared the whole day and also bored. We do not have a TV set now. There was a burglary in our house while we were away in Mingora for 20 days.
Earlier such incidents did not happen, but they have become rampant since the security situation in Mingora deteriorated so rapidly. Thank God there was no cash or gold in the house. My bracelet and anklet were also missing but I later found them. Maybe the burglar thought of them as gold ornaments but later found out they were artificial.
Maulana Fazlullah in a speech last night on his FM channel said that a recent attack on a police station in Mingora (the largest town in the Swat valley) was akin to a pressure cooker blast. He said that the next attack would resemble a cauldron exploding and after that a blast the size of a tanker exploding would take place.
At night my father updated us on the situation of Swat. These days we frequently use words like ‘army’, ‘Taleban’, ‘rocket’, ‘artillery shelling’, ‘Maulana Fazlullah’, ‘Muslim Khan’ (a militant leader), ‘police’, ‘helicopter’, ‘dead’ and ‘injured’.
THURSDAY 12 FEBRUARY: HEAVY SHELLING
There was heavy shelling last night. Both my brothers were sleeping but I could not. I went to lie down with my father but then went to my mother, but could not sleep.
That was why I also woke up late in the morning. In the afternoon I had tuition, then my teacher for religious education came. In the evening I continued playing with my brothers amid fighting and arguments. Also played games on computer for a while.
Before the Taleban imposed restrictions on the cable network, I used to watch the Star Plus TV channel and my favourite drama was ‘Raja Kee Aye Gee Barat’ (My dream boy will come to marry me).
Today is Thursday and I am scared because people say that most suicide attacks take place either on Friday mornings or on Friday evenings. They also say that the reason behind this is is because the suicide attacker thinks that Friday has a special importance in Islam and carrying out such attacks on this day will please God more.
FRIDAY 13 FEBRUARY: FAZLULLAH CRYING
Today the weather is good. It rained a lot and when it rains my valley looks more beautiful. As I got up in the morning, my mother told me about the murder of a rickshaw driver and a night watchman. Life is getting worse with the passage of each day.
Hundreds of people are arriving daily in Mingora from surrounding areas while residents of this city are moving to other areas. The rich have moved out of Swat while the poor have no place but to stay here.
We asked our cousin on the telephone to take us around the city in this splendid weather. He picked us up but when he came to the bazaar we found out that the markets were closed and the road wore a deserted look. We wanted to head towards the Qambar area but somebody told us a big procession has been brought out there.
That night Maulana Fazlullah (a pro-Taleban cleric) came on his radio and kept crying for a long time. He was demanding an end to the military operation. He asked people not to migrate but instead return to their homes.
SUNDAY 15 FEBRUARY: DON’T BE SCARED
Some guests from our village and Peshawar came today. When we were having lunch, firing started outside. I had never heard such firing. We got scared, thought that the Taleban had arrived. I ran towards my father who consoled me by telling me ‘Don’t be scared – this is firing for peace’.
He told me that he read in the newspaper that the government and the militants are to sign a peace deal tomorrow and he firing is in jubilation. Later, during the night when the Taleban announced the peace deal on their FM station, another spell of more stronger firing started. People believe more in what the militants say rather then the government.
When we heard the announcement, first my mother and then father started crying. My two younger brothers had tears in their eyes too.
MONDAY 16 FEBRUARY: REOPENING?
Today I was very happy because the government and the militants were to sign a peace deal. Today the helicopters were flying very low too. One of my cousins remarked that with the gradual return of peace the choppers were coming down too.
In the afternoon people started distributing sweets. One of my friends called me to greet me. She said she hopes she could go out of her home now because she was imprisoned in her room for the last several months. We were also happy hoping the girls’ schools might open now.
TUESDAY 17 FEBRUARY: HUSTLE AND BUSTLE
Today I started preparing for the examinations because after the peace deal there is a hope that girls’ schools could reopen. My teacher did not turn up today because she went to attend an engagement.
When I entered my room I saw my two brothers playing. One had a toy helicopter while the other had a pistol made of paper. One would yell “fire” and the other would say “take position”. One of my brothers told my father he wanted to make an atomic bomb.
Maulana Sufi Mohammad is in Swat today. The media are here too. The city is witnessing a lot of rush. The city’s hustle and bustle has returned. May God help make this agreement successful. I am optimistic.
WEDNESDAY 18 FEBRUARY: HOPE SMASHED
I went to the market today. It was crowded. People are happy about the deal. I saw a traffic jam after a long time. In the evening my father broke the news of the death of a Swat journalist (Musa Khankhel). Mom’s is not feeling well. Our hopes of peace have been smashed.
THURSDAY 19 FEBRUARY: PEACE NOT WAR
My father prepared breakfast today because my mum is not feeling well. She complained to my father, asking why did he tell her about the journalist’s death? I told my brothers that we will not talk of war but peace from now on. We received the information from our school headmistress that examinations will be held in the first week of March. I have stepped up my studies.