The Courage of Malala Yousafzai and the Cowardice of the Taliban…and something more.

Reading the NYTimes this morning, there is an article stating that Malala is starting to recover, even standing with help. That is good news.

The bad news is that some people in Pakistan are ‘doubting’ that this shooting of a 14 year old child was ‘real’. Some are stating that Malala was a ‘dupe’ of America, an agent, and so forth. Of course, the Taliban is saying that “Malala deserves what he got, and they will continue to attempt to kill her, PLUS she wore tons of makeup”. These ‘men’ are beyond civilization. If this thinking represents Muslim religious beliefs, they set world sympapthy back 1000 years, which is what they are trying to do to their countries.

Also, “the moment of outrage” has passed on this Malala issue. Well, whether this is because Pakistanis really think that this attempted murder of one of their own children doesn’t matter, or those who are expressing this sentiment are just cowards and afraid of the Taliban, so be it.

I say this, as a mother who has her only son serving in the military: Withdraw all aid and support from Pakistan. Withdraw all troops in the region. Let these backward people fight it out for themselves. Pakistan is the base of the Taliban. Let the Pakistani people feel the full brunt of their brutality, as they have been, but without the support of the world’s people. One more dead US soldier isn’t worth it. These people treat their camels better than the women in their countries.

Lady Nyo, October 20, 2012

(“Sea Eagle”, Jane Kohut-Bartels, watercolor, 2001)

This week we read of the attempted killing of a 14 year old girl in Pakistan by the Taliban, an out-spoken young woman who has dedicated her young life to the continued education of girls in Pakistan. So far they didn’t succeed in their attempted murder of this courageous young woman, and hopefully they won’t get another chance. That remains to be seen. Politics in Pakistan are full of corruption and opportunism. The Taliban have said that if she survives, they will make another attempt on her life.

For years, Malala would hide her school books under her bed when the Taliban swept through her neighborhood. To be found with books, to be found reading (to be able to even read was a threat to the Taliban!) or watching television, could have been a death sentence.

Though our cultures and ages are wide apart, I have the utmost respect for this young woman struggling to obtain an education in a part of the world where girls and women are denied the most basic human rights. Over a short few years, Malala has become a spokeswoman, at the tender age of 11, for education for girls. She has drawn the attention of a vicious group of extremists in her support of this issue. Her struggle for an education (she wants to be a doctor) goes straight to my heart. When I was growing up, my mother wasn’t ‘keen’ on my going to college: as she said, a college education was necessary for my two younger brothers, but I would probably just get married. They would be the bread winners for their future families. When I dropped out after only one semester, she was happy. At least I could be a secretary and support myself. That, apparently, was the sum total of what she thought was my potential. I had other plans, but they didn’t materialize for years.

I did go back to college, years later, and majored in psychology, quite a change from that one semester of music at Westminster Choir College. However, life got in the way of finishing college. I put my education aside during my first marriage where I worked to support my husband so he could finish college. He left me the week I was seriously injured and couldn’t support him. This was at the end of a 13 year marriage. I didn’t know how good life would become after the divorce.

Over the years life has been amazing, or at least I have actualized aspects of a life I would never have imagined. But a higher education should never be denied by either a short-sighted parent or a terrorist organization. It is obvious human potentialities can be broken by either. Both represent rank ignorance.

This young woman has suffered enormously, but she has also opened eyes around the world and the outrage people are expressing is righteous.

These Taliban terrorists that tried to kill Malala were masked. This is such a mark of their cowardice. They shot other girls on the bus, but thankfully they survived. Their attempt to kill her will always stand as the sum total of their ‘humanity’. I know Muslims, and those I know would never approve of this barbarism. It is my deepest hope the world will continue to see these extremists for what they are: not part of humanity, but a perversion of it. To attack children is insane and shows how desperate they are.

I have been blessed to have this blog and to have published three books to date. I have been able to do this by the constant encouragement and support of my second husband of many years. I am working on two books, hopefully to be out in the world by March, 2013. The royalties for the second book, “The Zar Tales” I planned to go to a women’s group in Turkey, but I couldn’t make the proper connection for this. That book is about the oppression of women by religious extremists and I felt this was a good place for any royalty to land. One of the new books to be published this spring is “Tin Hinan”. Some of the chapters have been serialized on this blog, so those interested can look them up. I think any royalty of this book, of which chapters are being read daily around the world, could go to support the education of young girls and women in areas where these basic human rights are denied.

There is so much we can do to support these issues. We only have to think of the destruction of potential growth, and the very lives of children amongst these cultures. Of course as my own earlier years show, it doesn’t take religious fanaticism to sow doubt and despair about the future. It only takes a narrow- minded ignorance, and that seems to be around in spades, regardless the culture.

I am going to end this entry with a poem I wrote a few years ago about Benazir Bhutto. She lived a complicated life and the charges of corruption, personal and within her party and leadership, seems not to disappear. But she was a woman assassinated; another woman denied life because of ignorance, religious and political extremism.

Lady Nyo


A long white head scarf
Floats over the land,
A white eagle who
Peers down
Testing the currents
Spreading her wings
As a compassionate mother
Over her children.

Chased by dark mountain eagles
Fierce and violent,
Torn from her home,
Sent into exile,
She returns triumphant
The love of her land
Calls her back,
Ignoring the danger
The violence, the threats.

So much to do!
So much to embrace –
Ah! Our mother has returned!

A while head scarf,
Now stained with blood,
Floats over the land.
There– chaos and riots
Gunfire cracks the night apart
Hearts straining, weeping,
Wringing of hopeless hands
In the soot filled and smoky air.

Yet in the mountains
In the strong currents
Made by the warm thermals
Still flies the white eagle
Now splattered by blood
But given in sacrifice
To a far greater love.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2009

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8 Responses to “The Courage of Malala Yousafzai and the Cowardice of the Taliban…and something more.”

  1. brian miller Says:

    you bring to light some important issues….when a 14 year old girl….god it breaks my heart what happened to her…becomes an enemy of the state or group….seriously….ugh….it is def the extremists…of whatever….i mean it happens in many religeons….most of which are supposedly peaceful and of love but…..ugh….thanks for this…and my best wishes on you upcoming book as well


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hey Brian….

    thank you for reading and your comment. I too, am sickened with this event. A child…a 14 year old child….and this cowardly attempt to murder her just to shut her up. Ugh indeed.

    What brave men! What paragons of their religion! They deserve the darkest circle of Hell….yet they are so delusioned that they believe they are righteous in their acts. And I agree….Christian, Jew or Muslim….etc…have extremists in their ranks….and cowardly folk who may not kill, but do as much damage in some important and universal ways.

    the book: Tin Hinan…well, I have some work left on it, but it is really surprisingly read ….these chapters I put up….and some I took down…lol! And I can only guess that the majority of the readers are those on my site stats from the Middle East….however, I don’t really know much…I am just grateful for those reading.

    When I was a bellydancer (have taken off a year or so because of injuries…) I met and worked with many Muslim women. I started belly dancing a year or so after 9/11, and my teachers were all Muslim. I felt guilty then, but that passed because the more important lessons of humanity took place of my anger and disgust. That is reserved for the extremists. Still.

    Malala will survive only with protection….international protection. I am reminded of this bibical piece: “And the little children shall lead”….Malala certainly is a little child.

    I pray (in my own fashion…non religious way) that she survives and her sacrifice (which doesn’t call for death to be a sacrifice) is a turning point for the rest of us internationally and the madness of this behvior opens the eyes of people…even in this morass of extremism…the Taliban.



  3. ManicDdaily Says:

    Hi Jane – I wrote about this also last week. It was/is so shocking and upsetting. I’m sure you saw the Times video about Malala. I’d seen it in 2009 and she was so striking I remembered her very well, so that when I saw the news I had to close the door to my office and just weep.

    Oddly, many years ago I saw Benazir Bhutto as a student in a very odd circumstance at Oxford University. I don’t want to tell the whole story here, but it was an incredibly awkward situation, which she handled with great grace. I felt so sad at her death.

    I’m so sorry to hear of your travails in your earlier life. You’ve educated yourself so much – terrific.



  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hi K!….I’ll check out your blog of last week and read.

    yes, I had the very same reaction….absolute shock and then outrage at Malala’s situation.

    I followed Benazir’s history and activity , just because she was such a rarity in any part of the Middle East, and I admired that she avoided assassination for so long, in spite of a previous attempt on her life. At one time, I had a friend who had some contact (he was American) with her and I don’t think that he ever understood what he had. Too late do we know.

    Education: Well, the reason for my mother’ attitude is not because she wasn’t educated herself (she went through nursing school and then some time at Princeton) but because of her self-centered narcissism. It is a poison that destroys so much in children, and especially girls. It’s a bit like the Taliban, as deadly, but usually without guns…however, there is usually extreme emotional violence. It’s an illness where the narcissist never comes in for diagnosis because they have no interest in a ‘cure’. They are ‘fine’…it’s the rest of the world who are ‘off’.

    It took me a long time to understand this, and therapy for the last 6 years with a wonderful, elderly Bavarian woman who champions me at most turns! LOL!…But the problem is this for many women with mothers such as mine: the self-doubt and lack of confidence that is embedded at an early age follows you through adulthood until you realize what the basis for your lack of faith in yourself and your self-defeating behavior. In my case, I seemed to be a magnet for abusive people. No more. I have a radar now for this! And….I have broken contact with family members who are cookie cutters of her abuse. One has to move away from this abuse or it will kill you. It will most definitely kill any creative potential. I lived in chronic depression for most of my life and never understood the root cause. Now I know.

    Life is too short and beautiful to be surrounded by such folk. My father was the only one who had any respect for my potential (whatever it was…I wasn’t sure at an early age!) but then again, I have found people in my life who are supportive and encouraging. My husband of 28 years to be the main one. I couldn’t do what I do without him having my back. But you have to work back from that particular darkness and it is exhausting.

    Funny enough, though the internet can be a double-edged sword, I have found a diverse community of encouraging people, with many histories of great courage all over the world. I am very thankful for this view of life from others. You are part of that, K. I think you have to cultivate friends carefully, because sometimes people aren’t what they at first appear. I’ve had this hard lesson before.

    Thank you so much for reading and your comment. I will this weekend read what you wrote on your blog. The world is pulling for Malala and all the other little girls who have been denied an education…such rank ignorance and violence to the psyche!



  5. ManicDdaily Says:

    Agh. So sorry for all this suffering. I understand. It’s very hard for a woman to feel confident creatively to begin with – easy to get waylaid. Thanks for your story and your wonderful work. k.


  6. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, K. Suffering is universal….and in this case, mine doesn’t hold a candle to what Malala and other girls in these war torn areas face.



  7. ayala Says:

    It breaks my heart ….so sad. Good Luck to you Jane. I am certain your books will be a success.


  8. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Ayala… is a heart breaking situation that girls….children…face here.

    As for the books….had anyone told me how hard it would be to REWRITE one…I would never have started! LOL!

    Thank you, Ayala…for reading and your encouraging comment.



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