TWO YEARS AGO today, fourteen-year-old activist Malala Yousafzai received Pakistan’s first National Peace Award. For two years, Yousafzai had campaigned for female education, a right denied her and others by the Taliban, which terrorized her hometown of Swat in northwest Pakistan. In 2009 she began a diary that appeared on BBC Urdu and illustrated the hardships of a young woman in a city where militants had destroyed 150 schools. She also appeared in two New York Times documentaries, “Class Dismissed in Swat Valley” and “A School Girl’s Odyssey,” that addressed the plight of education in Swat, a city where 3,000 Taliban fighters roamed the streets and 50,000 girls had lost a chance for an education.
In October of 2012, a Taliban gunman shot Yousafzai in the head and neck as she returned home on a school bus, placing her in critical condition (she survived). The shooting brought international outrage, with a New York Times editorial saying, “If Pakistan has a future, it is embodied in Malala Yousafzai. Yet the Taliban so feared this fourteen-year-old girl that they tried to assassinate her. Her supposed offense? Her desire of an education and her public push for it. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said militants shot Yousafzai because “they were scared of the power of her vision,” and added, “she is the true face of Pakistan.”