Malala’s hometown happy but scared

October 12, 2014 03:17 am | Updated November 17, 2021 11:00 am IST - MINGORA (PAKISTAN):

Students look out from their classroom in Swat, Pakistan on Saturday.

Students look out from their classroom in Swat, Pakistan on Saturday.

Hours after Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, people in her hometown in Pakistan erupted in joy that a young woman from their conservative society had won global recognition for fighting for women’s right to education.

“This is a moment of great honour for us, and the people of Swat and the people of Pakistan,” said Tariq Khan, a medical official, as he bought dry fruit at a brightly lit shop in the main bazaar of Mingora, Malala’s hometown.

Mingora, a small town in the picturesque valley in north-western Pakistan, is surrounded by lush rolling hills and soldiers standing guard at sand-bagged checkpoints.

Malala’s success could bring real change to a region where women are expected to keep silent and stay behind closed doors. Change may be slow, but Malala’s win is bound to inspire girls in the region to pursue education and become independent.

Just a few years ago, the region was overrun by Taliban insurgents who tried to impose strict Islamic rule and ban women from seeking education. Eventually, the Pakistani army drove them away, but tensions are still high in the strategic region.

Despite its conservative Islamic reputation, most people in the region want their daughters to go to school. “I have sent all my daughters and grand daughters to school... Swatis are a very proud people who have always believed in education,” said Akal Zada, a restaurant owner.

“But now we are afraid. No one will say much because we don’t know who is listening. I support Malala’s mission but I admit this with fear. What if the Taliban come back and kill me for saying this? We are all very happy with Malala. But we are also very scared.” — Reuters

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