As world helps Malala, Afghans ask ‘what about us?’

Published: October 22, 2012

Malala Yousufzai, shot by Taliban gunmen for advocating girls' education, was flown from Pakistan to Britain to receive treatment after the attack PHOTO: FAZAL KHALIQ/FILE

KABUL: The global attention bestowed on a Pakistani schoolgirl shot by the Taliban has sparked outcry amongst many Afghans dismayed by what they say is the unequal response to the plight of their women and children.

Malala Yousufzai, shot by Taliban gunmen for advocating girls’ education, was flown from Pakistan to Britain to receive treatment after the attack this month which drew widespread condemnation and an international outpouring of support.

“Every day an Afghan girl is abused, raped, has acid thrown on her face and mutilated. Yet no one remembers or acknowledges these girls,” Elay Ershad, who represents the nomadic Kuchi people in Afghan parliament, told Reuters.

Echoing concerns of other prominent Afghan women, Ershad said the government took no real interest in women’s rights, instead using the issue for political gain and currying favour with Western backers, a claim Kabul has dismissed as untrue.

President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly condemned Yousufzai’s shooting, even using it to address women’s rights in his country: “The people of Afghanistan … see this attempt not only against (Yousufzai) but also against all Afghan girls,” he said last week.

The closest Karzai has come this year to condemning violence against women in Afghanistan, as seen on the scale he has done with Yousufzai, was in July when gunmen publicly executed a 22-year-old woman, named Najiba, for alleged adultery, which prompted an international outcry.

“If the president does not care about Afghan women in general, why does he suddenly care about Malala?” Ershad asked.

“No one (here) ever seeks justice once the television cameras are turned off.”

The United Arab Emirates provided the plane taking Yousufzai to Britain, while British officials said the Pakistani government was footing the bill for her lengthy treatment in Birmingham.

Karzai has told Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari that the attack was proof the two needed to tackle a common enemy, a move widely seen as an attempt to soothe ties between the neighbours amid bickering over Pakistani shelling across the countries’ border.

‘We better understand Malala’s situation’

Afghan women have won back basic rights in education, voting and employment since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001, sparking the present NATO-led war, but Afghanistan remains one of the worst places on Earth to be a woman, despite billions of dollars in aid and pledges to better their lives.

There is now mounting concern that such freedoms will not be protected and may even be traded away as Kabul seeks a peace deal with the Taliban, as most foreign troops prepare to leave the country by the end of 2014.

“We understand Malala’s situation better than anybody in the world, (yet) our government defends women’s rights with empty slogans and actually does next to nothing,” said Suraya Parlika, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and member of the upper house of parliament.

The popular, privately owned Tolo television highlighted the story of a policeman in eastern Ghazni province, called Zalmai, whose young son and daughter were shot dead in front of him by suspected Taliban members just days before Yousufzai’s October 9 shooting in Pakistan’s Swat valley.

“How can the Afghan government react so and condemn (the attack on) a Pakistani girl and ignore such an event like this?” Tolo quoted one of Zalmai’s colleagues as saying this week, adding that officials had ignored requests to investigate.

Afghanistan’s independent human rights commission says violence against women is increasing across the country as Karzai’s government appears to backslide on women’s rights.

The older brother of Mah Gul, a 20-year-old woman beheaded last week in western Herat province by her in-laws for refusing prostitution, said local officials initially took no interest in her murder.

“People get told off for slaughtering someone else’s cow but we had to wait for her murder to be announced in the mosque before anything was done about it,” 32-year-old taxi driver and Gul’s brother Mohammad Nasir Akbari told Reuters.

Four people including Gul’s husband and in-laws were arrested last week, officials said.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Oct 22, 2012 - 6:39PM

    Afghans are absolutely right!

    The story was picked up by World media after it went viral in Pakistan. Thats the reason the world concentrated on Malala.

    But, there is no such media in Afghanistan, if there were the response would be similar.

    Pakistanis have to ask themselves: They support the Taliban in Afghanistan. But, don’t want them in Pakistan. Its ok for Afghans, its ok if Afghan women are attacked, but not Pakistani ones? This is pure hypocrisy.

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  • amir/omani
    Oct 22, 2012 - 7:09PM

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAH

    HAHAHAHAHAH NICE AFGHAN HAHAHAHHAHAAH

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  • Jatt
    Oct 22, 2012 - 10:21PM

    @amir/omani (wannabe arab)

    whats there to laugh about?

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  • Fahd
    Oct 22, 2012 - 11:10PM

    Yes, shame on this usaid sponsored media. if malala was a afghan or iraqi or even one who had died in the drone attack, people like faisal naqvi and others would have supported her murder. Shame on double standards on this hypocrite media and pathetic self proclaimed liberals that actually promote killings of innocents. Isnt it a weird thing that the attack on malala took place just a day after the march against drone attacks, so that all the momentum generated against the war finished and people forgot about it. Shame on this media thousand times!!

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  • Sid
    Oct 23, 2012 - 12:10AM

    @BruteForce:
    You missed the point as Afghans did. Malala dared to speak against the Talibans or their theology as a whole. She stood firm in defying the threats made to her life. That kind of determination and act makes a difference which is resonating all over.

    With regard to Talibans activities in Afghanistan, the world knows that they are the sons of the Afghan soil who spilled over or pushed into Pakistan along with the millions of Afghan refugees.

    It is not a question nor the necessity of supporting or denouncing wrong actions anywhere as each nation has a duty to speak and act to fix their own problems and make choices.

    However it is an irony that there are many other issues and problems those are yet to be voiced within the country.

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  • Rani
    Oct 23, 2012 - 12:31AM

    @BruteForce:
    Because Taliban are Afghan. Pakistan does not belong to Taliban. Thanks to Zia ul Haq for blessing us with them.

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  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Oct 23, 2012 - 8:52AM

    Afghans should change their attitude towards women before demanding equal treatment. Afghans enjoy the show when Taliban put bullets in heads of women in front of thousands of Afghans. Whereas Pakistanis stand against them, when they flog a woman in public.

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  • bain
    Oct 23, 2012 - 9:51AM

    how do northern alliance warlords treat women?

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