Malala Yousafzai is the 17-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head and neck by a Pakistani Taliban gunman.
Her “crime”? Campaigning for the right of girls and women to pursue an education in Pakistan.
The attack came on October 9, 2012, when a Taliban gunman forced his way into a van full of schoolgirls, asked for her by name, and opened fire.
The assault provoked unprecedented levels of public outrage, both in Pakistan and Afghanistan—even among people who have in the past sympathized with the militants.
But the Taliban had a different outlook on it.
“For days and days, coverage of the Malala case has shown clearly that the Pakistani and international media are biased,” said a Pakistani Taliban commander in South Waziristan. “The Taliban cannot tolerate biased media.”
The commander, who called himself Jihad Yar, argued that death threats against the press are justified. “Ninety-nine percent” of the reporters on the story, he claimed, were only using the shooting as an excuse to attack the Taliban.
Leaders of the Islamic Taliban
Yar did not apologize for the attempt to assassinate the girl, who passionately opposed the Taliban’s efforts to close girls’ schools.
“We have no regrets about what happened to Malala,” he said. “She was going to become a symbol of Western ideas, and the decision to eliminate her was correct. If she was not important for the West’s agenda, why would a U.S. ambassador meet her?”
According to unnamed sources, the Taliban dispatched 12 suicide bombers against the news media. And it is particularly eager to target female journalists. Said Yar:
“They were at the U.S. Embassy party with wine glasses in their hands and wearing un-Islamic dress with Americans.”
But the Pakistani Taliban have no monopoly on hatred of women’s rights.
On February 4, 2013, two North Carolina state representatives introduced a bill to “clarify” state law to specifically prohibit the baring of women’s breasts.
The proposed legislation, House Bill 34, would make it a Class H felony to expose “external organs of sex and of excretion, including the nipple, or any portion of the areola, of the human female breast.”
North Carolina law already forbids “indecent exposure,” but doesn’t specifically define breasts as “private parts.”
Accused violators could face one to six months in prison.
Rep. Rayne Brown, a Republican who co-sponsored the bill, said, to some people, the issue might seem frivolous. But “there are communities across this state, there’s local governments across this state, and also local law enforcement for whom this issue is really not a laughing matter.”
Rep. Rayne Brown
Brown said that she was prompted, in part, by the second annual topless protest and women’s rally in Asheville in August, 2012. Asheville is about 130 miles from Brown’s own district.
Rep. Annie Mobley, D-Ahoskie, voiced concerns that the bill could affect people wearing “questionable fashions.”
“All we are doing is codifying the Supreme Court definition of ‘private parts,’” said House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry. “That’s it. “
Stevens said using pasties or other nipple coverings would protect women against prosecution. “They’d be good to go.”
For Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleaveland, the issue was a laughing matter: “You know what they say–duct tape fixes everything.”
So far, the bill seems to be stalled in the legislature.
And, not to be outdone, the Wisconsin state legislature enacted a budget for 2011-2013 that eliminated funding to family planning clinics that provide abortions or refer women to a clinic that performs the procedure.
In a press conference, Nicole Safar, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, said that some 2,000 low-income women who rely on the clinics for cancer screening, breast exams, pregnancy testing, and other services would now be left out in the cold.
“They are small centers in small communities and they needed the state funding to make them financially viable,” said Planned Parenthood spokesperson Teri Huyck.
“It’s terribly unfortunate for the women who live in these areas. Without the state support, we didn’t have a choice.
“None of these centers provided abortion services. There is nowhere else for low-income women to get these services. These centers focused on preventing unplanned pregnancies and reducing the need for abortions,” said Safar.
Due to the loss of $1.1 million in state funding, Planned Parenthood closed facilities in Beaver Dam, Johnson Creek, Chippewa Falls and Shawano between April and July.
For those who believe women should control their own lives, the message should be clear: This will never be possible in some parts of the world.
And these include Islamic countries and those states controlled by Rightist Republicans.
It is pointless to expect those who believe they are God’s anointed to renounce their absolutist beliefs. Or to cease trying to gain absolute power over others–especially women.
In Afghanistan, the United States is waging a losing battle to eliminate the freedom-hating Islamic Taliban.
It would do better to start waging war against the freedom-hating Rightist Taliban within its own borders.