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Politics is Failing

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Malala Yousafzai - The Day I Was Shot By The Taliban - From Her Autobiography 1 AM MALALA

The school was not far from my home and I used to walk, but since the start of the last year I had been going with other girls in a rickshaw and coming home by bus. It was a journey of five minutes along the stinky stream, past the giant billboard for Dr. Humayun’s Hair Transplant Institute, where we joked that one of our bald male teachers must have gone when he suddenly started to sprout hair. I liked riding the bus because I didn’t get as sweaty as when I walked, and I could chat with my friends and gossip with Usman Ali, the driver, whom we called Bhai Jan, or “brother.” He made us all laugh with his crazy stories.

I had started taking the bus because my mother worried about me walking on my own. We had been getting threats all year. Some were in the newspapers, and some were messages passed on by people. I was more concerned the Taliban would target my father, as he was always speaking out against them. His friend and fellow campaigner Zahid Khan had been shot in the face in August on his way to prayers.

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Our street could not be reached by car. I would get off the bus on the road below, go through an iron gate and up a flight of steps. Sometimes I’d imagine that a terrorist might jump out and shoot me on those steps. I wondered what I would do. Maybe I’d take off my shoes and hit him. But then I’d think that if I did that, there would be no difference between me and a terrorist. It would be better to plead, “Okay, shoot me, but first listen to me. What you are doing is wrong. I’m not against you personally. I just want every girl to go to school.”

I wasn’t scared, but I had started making sure the gate was locked at night and asking God what happens when you die. I told my best friend, Moniba, everything. We’d lived on the same street when we were little and had been friends since primary school. We shared Justin Bieber songs and Twilight movies, the best face-lightening creams. Moniba always knew if something was wrong. “Don’t worry,” I told her. “The Taliban have never come for a small girl.”

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When our bus was called, we ran down the school steps. The bus was actually a white Toyota truck with three parallel benches. It was cramped with 20 girls and three teachers. I was sitting on the left between Moniba and a girl named Shazia Ramzan, all of us holding our exam folders to our chests.

Inside the bus it was hot and sticky. In the back, where we sat, there were no windows, just plastic sheeting, which was too yellowed to see through. All we could see out the back was a little stamp of open sky and glimpses of the sun, a yellow orb floating in the dust that streamed over everything.

Then we suddenly stopped. A young bearded man had stepped into the road. “Is this the Khushal School bus?” he asked our driver. Usman Bhai Jan thought this was a stupid question, as the name was painted on the side. “Yes,” he said.

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“I need information about some children,” said the man. “You should go to the office,” said Usman Bhai Jan. As he was speaking, another young man approached the back of the van.

“Look, it’s one of those journalists coming to ask for an interview,” said Moniba. Since I’d started speaking at events with my father, journalists often came, though not like this, in the road.

The man was wearing a peaked cap and had a handkerchief over his nose and mouth. Then he swung himself onto the tailboard and leaned in over us. “Who is Malala?” he demanded. No one said anything, but several of the girls looked at me. I was the only girl with my face uncovered. That’s when he lifted up a black pistol. Some of the girls screamed. Moniba tells me I squeezed her hand.

My friends say he fired three shots. The first went through my left eye socket and out under my left shoulder. I slumped forward onto Moniba, blood coming from my left ear, so the other two bullets hit the girls next to me. One bullet went into Shazia’s left hand. The third went through her left shoulder and into the upper right arm of Kainat Riaz.

My friends later told me the gunman’s hand was shaking as he fired.

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Afghanistan: Dominic Raab insists ‘no one saw this coming‘ after Taliban takeover of Kabul

All of those factors have been very fluid, but no one saw this coming. Of course we would have taken action if we had.”

I read Malala’s autobiography (which described at length and in detail the horrendous and inhumane treatment of people by the Taliban), and was then shocked to see that Donald Trump’s government was negotiating with this extreme terrorist group who were guilty of so many crimes against humanity. I will never forget the scenes of women being beaten and stoned to death when the Taliban governed Afghanistan. It became clear to me that Trump’s aim was to quit the country at any cost, regardless of the implications for the country’s people. It should be emphasised that the USA forces were not engaged in fighting but in supporting the country’s government and army. But an even greater shock to me was Biden adhering to Trump’s deal and timetable which inevitably led to the Taliban’s easy and rapid takeover of the country.

My shock turned to anger and disbelief when both Boris Johnson and Biden’s representative have just declared that both the UK and the USA had succeeded in their joint aims in Afghanistan, and at a point when the Taliban had almost completed their takeover of the country, with thousands of Afghans desperate to leave their homes. And ISIS actively murdering hundreds of Afghans from bases located in the country. At the same time support for the Afghan people has been removed, the UK and the USA have sent thousands of troops to assist their own citizens leave the country. One former allied soldier who served in the country has responded with “I hang my head in shame” - a typical response from other soldiers who served and lost friends in the conflict.

It beggars belief that the two key armed forces of the USA and the UK were pulled out so quickly when many months were available to execute a far more considered withdrawal, while continuing to provide logistical support for the Afghan army and government. After twenty productive and hard fought years Afghanistan is back to where it was - at the mercy of a brutal and extreme regime.

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