Afghan women in the 1970s before the US-led intervention installing the Taliban
Afghan women in the 1970s before the US-led intervention installing the Taliban

On October 6, sixteen year-old Malala Yousafzai received a Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Award for her role in fighting for the rights of young girls to be educated in Afghanistan yet her speeches lack any blame on Western countries who has supported the Taliban and installed the very regimes which has led to the erosion of female education and rights in Afghanistan in general.

Malala Yousafzai rose to international prominence in October 2012 after being shot in the head and neck by the Taliban in Afghanistan for speaking up for girls education and women’s rights. She was shot on her way back from school, on a school bus and left for dead. She was later transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, where she received an operation and a titanium plate was fitted to her skull and her hearing was restored.

In April 2013, Time magazine featured Malala on the front cover as one of the most 100 influential people in the world and she has been nominated for the nobel peace prize this year.

Yet when you listen to Malala’s speeches regarding her fight for education and women’s rights there is no mention of the West’s complicity in supporting the Taliban and suppressing women’s rights in Afghanistan for decades.

The picture above is taken from an article by Julie Lévesque. a journalist and researcher with the Centre for Research on Globalization. In her article, From Afghanistan to Syria: Women’s Rights, War Propaganda and the CIA, she highlights how women’s rights are being used by the West to justify the invasions of Muslim countries.

Lévesque mentions how it was the US who installed the Taliban in 1996 which led to the demise of women’s rights. It was the US who financed religious extremists in order to topple secular institutions in Afghanistan. It was the US through the CIA who funded religious schools; before this education in Afghanistan was mostly secular.

Afghanistan in the 1980s was very unlike the images we see on our televisions today. Women attended universities to study engineering, business and medicine. Men and women did not have to cover up unless they chose to.

“Biology class, Kabul University.”
“Biology class, Kabul University.”
“Kabul University students changing classes. Enrollment has doubled in last four years.“
“Kabul University students changing classes. Enrollment has doubled in last four years.“

The pictures say it all, before the US interfered in Afghanistan women’s rights were respected.

 Malala fails to follow in the footsteps of revolutionary Afghan feminists

It is disappointing to see Malala allowing herself to be used by the West to further their imperial agenda. More disappointingly she has failed to follow in the footsteps of revolutionary women movements like The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), founded in 1977 to establish human rights for women.

According to Lévesque RAWA said, “The US and her allies tried to legitimize their military occupation of Afghanistan under the banner of “bringing freedom and democracy for Afghan people”. But as we have experienced in the past three decades, in regard to the fate of our people, the US government first of all considers her own political and economic interests and has empowered and equipped the most traitorous, anti-democratic, misogynist and corrupt fundamentalist gangs in Afghanistan.”

Assed Baig, a freelance print and broadcast journalist questioned the motives of the West in his article Malala Yousafzai and the White Saviour Complex, in a Huffington Post comment.

Much like RAWA’s critique, Baig says that Malala’s ordeal has been hijacked by the West to justify their actions in Afghanistan and other countries using a familiar colonial narrative, the white man’s burden.

He said, “This is a story of a native girl being saved by the white man. Flown to the UK, the Western world can feel good about itself as they save the native woman from the savage men of her home nation. It is a historic racist narrative that has been institutionalised. Journalists and politicians were falling over themselves to report and comment on the case. The story of an innocent brown child that was shot by savages for demanding an education and along comes the knight in shining armour to save her.”

Baig also said:

I support Malala, I support the right to education for all, I just cannot stand the hypocrisy of Western politicians and media as they pick and choose, congratulating themselves for something that they have caused. Malala is the good native, she does not criticise the West, she does not talk about the drone strikes, she is the perfect candidate for the white man to relieve his burden and save the native.

The Western savior complex has hijacked Malala’s message. The West has killed more girls than the Taliban have. The West has denied more girls an education via their missiles than the Taliban has by their bullets. The West has done more against education around the world than extremists could ever dream of. So, please, spare us the self-righteous and self-congratulatory message that is nothing more than propaganda that tells us that the West drops bombs to save girls like Malala.”

Malala could have been a real inspiration for millions of young girls around the world who are the victims of Western greed and imperialism. She could have been a voice for the voiceless, but instead she has become a pawn of the Western media to justify more invasions and more wars. She fought for the right to be educated and nearly sacrificed her life for that cause but in the end she has ended up miseducating millions of young girls into believing that the West is the answer to their problems.

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