Malala Yousafzai and Anne Frank: Their voices will not be silenced

Robert A. Cohn, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the St. Louis Jewish Light


People all over the world, but especially in the ever-volatile Middle East are still recoiling in revulsion over the cowardly, horrific shooting of Malala Yousafzai, the brave 14-year-old Pakistani girl who had spoken out in a forceful, clear voice that all girls and women in the Islamic world should be able to obtain an education at all levels.  A Taliban gunman, according to the New York Times, singled out and shot Malala last Tuesday on a school bus. A “spokesman” for the murderous terrorist group said the brutal assault “was in retaliation for her work in promoting girls’ education and children’s rights in the northwestern Swat Valley,” near the Afghan border.

After hours of surgery by a team of volunteer Pakistani physicians, Malala has been transferred to a hospital in Birmingham, England with experience in treating trauma of the kind the brave young human rights activist suffered.  Of course we join in hopes and prayers for Malala’s full recovery from her viciously inflicted wounds.  Adding even more odious insult to their gravely inflicted injury, the Taliban has vowed to hunt down and kill Malala if she recovers.

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The story of the incredibly brave Malala Yousafzai recalls the voice of another brave 14-year-old girl:  Anne Frank, who kept a detailed journal of her family and others in hiding in Amsterdam in 1944 and 1945. Anne, her sister Margo and their mother all would perish in the Bergen-Belsen death camp.   Anne’s story, including her famous quote, “In spite of everything, people are really good at heart,” has inspired generations of other young girls, boys and adults.  One hopes that the words of Malala Yousafzai will continue to inspire generations of her fellow Pakistanis and others in the Middle East and neighboring regions, who will follow the example of the thousands who took to the streets in Karachi, Pakistan to pray for her recovery and to vehemently protest the brutality of the Taliban.

It is hard if not impossible to believe Anne Frank’s words that “people are really good at heart” when the Nazis murdered her and another 1.5 million children in the Holocaust.  And it is hard to believe that ”people are good at heart” when a group like the Taliban is allowed to get away with her attempted murder and the vicious attacks on women and girls.  We do not forget that when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, girls and women were forced out of schools and universities.  When the Taliban were overthrown by the U.S. and its Allies after 9/11, Taliban terrorists threw acid in the faces of girls going to school and set fire to their school buildings.

And yet, we still hear voices talking about “reaching out to the Taliban” for an eventual “peace settlement” in Afghanistan. After the attack on Malala such talk should stop immediately.

Mullah Omar, the official overall ruler of the Taliban, and who led the Taliban government in Afghanistan (which hosted Osama bin Laden), should immediately be indicted as a war criminal by the International Criminal Court, which should work with affiliated nations to bring about his capture and transfer to The Hague for trial.  

The Taliban should not be able to hide behind the category of “non-state actor” to escape the bar of international justice.

In the meantime, as we pray for the full recovery of Malala Yousafzai, let us hope that her brave speeches, writings and social media blogs on behalf of education rights for girls and women become just as immortal as those of that other 14-year-old girl, Anne Frank.