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Malala Yousafzai: Girls who risk their lives defying the Taliban

What now for womens' rights campaigners in Pakistan after Malala's shooting?

Sat in front of a raft of microphones, flanked by her parents, a timid Pakistani teenage girl raises her voice to speak to a room of journalists.

The youngster, Hina Khan, wanted to speak up for women's rights, after the Pakistan Taliban bombed dozens of schools to forcibly prevent girls from gaining an education.

Militants demanding an extreme adherence to Islamic law - including minimal rights for women - insist girls should not go to school. This was something a then 13-year-old Hina was not prepared to accept.

She bravely stood up to the Taliban, accusing them of taking away a woman's right to choose how she lives. Her outspoken views four years ago made Hina a target for extremists and she has received constant death threats ever since.

Speaking out: Hina Khan, a teenager who has also been targeted by the Taliban, makes a speech in 2008


This week her family received the clearest threat to their safety when a red cross was painted on her door and she was told by the Taliban: 'You're next'.


Just days earlier the same militants had callously gunned down 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai in an attempted execution which sent shock waves of revulsion throughout the world.

'What those girls did is speak up for something which the rest of us in other parts of the world take for granted'Amnesty International

Like Hina before her, Malala had defied the Taliban, vocally championing education for girls and women's rights.

The teenage pair are figureheads of a movement who are determined not to be silenced by the extremist agenda.

Threat: The red cross daubed on the door of Hina's home as the Taliban warned she would be next


Malala was shot in the head and neck on a school bus by a Taliban marksman on 9 October..

Before she was gunned down, Malala had spoken out against the Taliban regime from the age of just 11, blogging about their brutality in the region where she lived before Pakistan's government decided to increase its efforts against the extremists.


The attempt on her life resulted in waves of protests, as well as an outpouring of worldwide support for Malala and her fellow activists.

She remains critically ill after flying to the UK to receive life-saving treatment at a hospital in Birmingham.

Last week she was pictured, heavily bandaged but conscious, sat up in a hospital bed, in a moving picture which summed up her gutsy plight.

Support: The shooting of Malala has been condemned across the world (PA)

Her classmates, in a poignant show of unity, say they too will defy extremists by returning to school with Malala should she recover.

Mustafa Qadri, a Pakistan researcher for Amnesty International, says there are other young female activists with the same convictions as Malala and Hina who may now be too frightened to speak up against the Taliban's oppression.


He said: "What those girls did is speak up for something which the rest of us in other parts of the world take for granted.

"There are other activists like them but they may now be too scared.

"However, when you have a real sense of conviction about something, you think about the threat in a different way.

"The fact that girls should have the same chance to become doctors and lawyers, to be educated and be part of society - that is a sentiment people in Pakistan share.

"I cannot begin to imagine what Malala's family are going through - everyone has been shocked by these attacks and the fact that the Taliban would stoop so low."

Hina lived in the Taliban-controlled Swat Valley before moving to Islamabad in 2006. She said she 'raised her voice publicly' to 'save the future' of her female classmates.

It is estimated that since 2007, extremists have destroyed more than 200 schools in Swat, mostly schools for girls.

In Swat and other hardline fundamentalist parts of Pakistan, women are rarely seen outside the home and constantly wear veils covering their faces.

Hina, now 16, has maintained her defiance against the extremists who continue to threaten her life.

She told Pakistani news site Dawn.com: "I had left Swat with my family because the militants had threatened girls' education there but now I feel I would not be able to go to school in Islamabad as well after these renewed threats.

"I am more worried now because after the attack on Malala, this red cross appearing on our door and subsequent threats to my family has made us more insecure."

Hina and Malala's continued campaigning demonstrates remarkable bravery and resistance to a regime intent on suppressing the rights and expression of women.

Hina's parents are equally concerned about their safety after their daughter dared to speak up.

Her father, Raitullah Khan, said he has asked Pakistan's government for more protection, but has not received a response. Local police told the family to sort out their own security.

Hina's brave stance runs in the family - her mother Farhat, a social worker, was an activist for female empowerment in Swat for more than a decade.

Likewise Malala's father Ziauddin is a keen political activist who himself was made homeless in 2009 while fleeing the Taliban.

Amnesty International are campaigning for Malala's attackers to be brought to justice and for the law in Pakistan to be changed so girls who speak out are offered more protection.

Mustafa Qadri said the state structure in Pakistan needs to be assessed for justice to prevail.

He added: "People are out there trying to kill schoolgirls, and as it has happened in a region where the Army had forced out the Taliban, many are now wondering, 'Is there no place safe in Pakistan?' "

"In Pakistan there is a very bad record for bringing these kind of people to justice. The police are not properly trained, the courts are not properly resourced and there is very little witness protection.

Protest in Peshawar to support shot child activistDemonstrators march in the streets of Peshawar, Pakistan in support of wounded 14-year-old campaigner Malala Yousufzai as doctors remove a bullet from her body. National leaders and rights activists have united to condemn the Taliban attack, which came in reprisal for her activism for girls' education. Duration: 00:28


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