A few days ago, the British media reported two stories as the most important that day. The first was the discharging from hospital of the 15-year-old Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai, and the second was the success of the first hand-transplant surgery in Britain. I contemplated those two stories while sadly remembering what we have come to in Egypt, and the future that might await us.
Confronting the forces of darkness
Yousafzai was receiving medical treatment in Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham after a Taliban militant shot her in the head for insisting on going to school and supporting girls’ right to an education.
On Oct. 9, two masked men stopped a bus taking a group of girls from school. One of them got on and yelled: “Where is Malala? Speak or I will shoot you all. Where is that girl who attacks the soldiers of God? She needs to be punished.” When he recognized the girl, he went ahead and shot her.
The Taliban bragged about the shooting because, as one of their spokesmen put it, she “is a secular girl, and those like her had to be warned.” Yousafzai, he added, supported Western culture and antagonized the Taliban. “She wouldn’t be safe if she survived,” he said.
Yousafzai became known when she started exposing the atrocities committed by Islamist extremists who controlled the Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan, where she lived from 2007 until 2009. She did that through a blog under a fake name. Barely 14 years old, Yousafzai received the National Peace Award in Pakistan for her efforts in support of girls’ education against the Taliban’s will. “I wanted to scream out loud and tell the entire world what we’re suffering under Taliban rule,” she said in a TV interview.
After seizing control of the Swat Valley, Taliban militants burnt down schools, banned girls’ education, and forced women to stay at home.
“Saturday Jan. 3, 2009: our headmistress announced that girls have to stop wearing school uniform because of the Taliban,” Yousafzai wrote in her diary. “Only three girls came to school during that term, then they all dropped out following the Taliban’s threats.”
“Jan. 5: Today, our teacher asked us not to wear bright colors because this angers the Taliban.”
“Tuesday March 3, 2009: On our way to school, my friend asked me to cover my hair properly or else I would be punished by the Taliban.”
“Thursday March 12, 2009: I had an inflammation in the larynx, and my dad took me to the doctor. There, a woman told us about a boy called Anis. He was with the Taliban, and once a friend of his, also from the Taliban, told him he dreamt that he was surrounded by virgins in heaven. So Anis asked his parents if he could carry out a suicide operation in order to go to heaven. They refused, but he went ahead and blew himself up in front of a security checkpoint.”
Yousafzai is now out of hospital, and will resume her struggle against the forces of darkness, and teach us a lesson about courage.
The second story in the British media was about Mark Cahill, who lived for five years with a paralyzed right hand. Last week, he underwent successful hand-transplant surgery, and is now able to move his hand and fingers after the first operation of its kind in the world.
Cahill expressed his happiness at finally being able to do the things he was unable to do before, such as tying his shoelaces, buttoning his shirt, preparing dinner, and playing with his grandchild.
A few months before, another medical leap took place when it was discovered that a chip can be transplanted inside the fundus of a blind eye so that sight can be restored. The prosperity of the people and the future of the nation, rather than the destructive monopoly of power, are the duties of governments.
Where are our rulers taking us? What future are we facing because of them? I suggest that readers follow the news in the Egyptian media, then compare it to the two stories I have highlighted to see if, like me, they will feel sad for our current situation, and frightened of what the future may hold.
Abdel Latif al-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of "Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak," a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy