Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cleavage-Revealing Costumes Cheapen Halloween And Women Who Wear Them


By Cresonia Hsieh
Senior Reporter
DELRAY BEACH, Florida – It’s that time of the year when pumpkins are carved, candy is freely given out, toddler girls transform into Disney princesses, but most of all, it’s that time of year when innocent professions and adorable animals are adulterated. Only in America would the young “ladies” of a nation turn a favorite childhood holiday into an excuse to purchase the most promiscuous outfit from Party City that they can find.
In high schools everywhere, adolescent girls adopt the concept of innocent animals – such as the mouse, bunny and kitten – and exploit it so that they can sport skimpy and provocative outfits and somehow pass it off as “cute.” Although once a quasi-family friendly holiday, Halloween has become one of the most perverted holidays our nation has ever had the displeasure of seeing.
Although I cannot speak for everyone, I’ve seen teenage girls buy costumes that are about five sizes too small for them, suck in their stomachs and chests, and pull the ties of their cleavage-revealing corset strings to a rib-cracking extent, and – generally speaking – without passing out. It is a strange phenomenon when the same women who push for equal rights end up becoming the ones who willingly reduce themselves in this way. In doing so, they not only bring themselves down, but give their own personal blessing to everyone else to cheapen their value as well.
Adult "Lusty Leopard" costume,
on sale at Party City  for $139.99
This obsession with corrupting a once-celebrated holiday for children has now become a commonplace commodity in America. In fact, if you scroll through Party City’s website, the good people at Party City have devoted a whole section of their “adult” costume section to “Sexy Costumes.” Within this section, one can purchase, “Egyptian, Roman, and Greek Sexy Costumes,” “Storybook Sexy Costumes,” “TV and Movie Sexy Costumes” and “Superhero Sexy Costumes,” not to mention the section “Burlesque Costumes,” which is not currently included under “Sexy Costumes.”
It appears as though a girl’s extreme need to be noticed has been acknowledged by big businesses everywhere to offer them all the tools to do so themselves. This corruption is evidently growing as the teenage girls are not the only ones acting immature, but adult women as well.
I’m not sure what kind of spell has been placed on our country to allow this disgrace to occur, but all of this just goes to simply say: Please ladies, do not wear your “sexy black cat” outfit tonight – you might just be degraded all the way down to tomorrow’s roadkill.

Showing Traditional Halloween Spirit

Youth Journalism International Correspondent Kiernan Majerus-Collins took a walk in his West Hartford, Connecticut neighborhood today and snapped these photos of Halloween displays:

A ghost floats in the breeze

Skeletal bridal couple

The skeletal bridal party


A porch with seasonal mums, Halloween lights and spooky decorations

An impressive pirate ship sails in front of this home
 
This yard is full of dragons!
The large dragon head
The baby dragon tries to keep up

This tombstone was part of a homemade front yard burial ground.
Maybe these bones are making good on the promise this year.




Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Jokes, Antics, Fun For All In 'Madagascar 3'



By Robert Mooney
Junior Reporter
RICHMOND, North Yorkshire, U.K. – Madagascar is a country with a hot climate and, at times, extreme weather.
The United Kingdom is far from there, but it is where I recently saw Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, which was released earlier this year.
Come along with Alex, Marty, Gloria, Melman and friends as they go on another crazy journey back to their home in New York.
This film, rated PG, is enjoyable for all your family and friends and has laugh-out-loud moments throughout. As someone who is almost an adult and likely not to be in the film’s primary target audience, I found it still as funny as the first of the series released seven years ago.
The story of every film in the series leaves you wondering how the filmmakers keep coming up with ideas. Some are references to things that the younger generation may not fully understand, but the film is packed with classic jokes that stay in your head for a long time afterwards. The Madagascar franchise has been so successful that DreamWorks made a spin-off following the journey of the penguins, Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private. Having already had their own TV series on Nickelodeon and a short film made about them, the penguins have a reputation to live up to.
If future series or films are made and they are as spectacular and hilarious as the previous ones, it will be something to look forward to. This film would usually have been pulled from the cinema by now and fans would have the wait for it to come out on DVD but due to its immense popularity it has stayed on longer.
DreamWorks have always made good films and this one is no exception. One thing I like is that they are always constant in what they do, introducing little themes or tiny details that run through their films. One such theme in the Madagascar films is the stupidity of the penguins: hijacking a ship, going gambling or even boarding a plane and causing chaos. These animals have no control over what they do, but I suppose that’s the fun of it. Where would the laughs be if they didn’t get into these situations? No wonder they have their own series and spin-off.
There is a possibility of a Madagascar 4 which will be another massive hit, especially if it lives up to the standard of the most recent installment. Given that, who know where the Madagascar journey will take us next? The adventures of Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria take us places you never expected (literally and metaphorically), from being deserted on an island to joining the circus.  
That’s the beauty of DreamWorks films. They have some strange way of appealing to all ages. This is a good thing for the filmmakers and the audience. It will be a challenge, but I hope they can maintain this standard. Under the guidance of the right people, though, it can be done.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

World Must Stand With Syrian People


By Mehran Shamit
Senior Reporter
TORONTO, Canada – Fifteen kids in Daraa, Syria wrote on a wall, “Alshaeb Yureed Isqaat Al-Nitham” meaning the people want to overthrow the regime and on March 6, 2011 they were arrested by Syrian security forces and taken away from their homes and their families.
The 15 boys, between the ages of 5 and 15, were detained under the control of Gen. Atef Najeeb, one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s cousins, and were brutally tortured during interrogations. They were all beaten and bloodied, burned and had their nails pulled out by men working for Bashar al-Assad.
After several public protests, where protesters came under fire from Syrian security forces, 14 of the 15 kids were returned, all bearing scars and marks of torture. The 14 kids that made it out alive all had disfigured faces, cigarette burns all over their bodies and pulled nails but they were still lucky, because one of their friends did not return and was presumed dead under torture.
This is the true face of al-Assad and this is what his regime represents. The uprising in Syria that started more than a year and a half ago is not a civil war and it is not a sectarian war.
It is a revolution for freedom to end injustice and the oppression of Syrians under al-Assad, a dictator and mass murderer, and nearly 50 years of Ba’ath Party rule.
Since the start of the Syrian revolution, al-Assad’s regime has continued to use aggression and violence against its own people, indiscriminately shooting and killing thousands. Many attacks have also included house-to-house raids and Syrian security forces have gone as far as using warplanes, tanks and heavy artillery, destroying villages, towns and cities by bombing and shelling.
In 1982, Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafiz al-Assad, was responsible for the Hama massacre, killing as many as 20,000 people in Hama, Syria. Like father, like son.
Bashar al-Assad is considered the worst mass murderer of the Arab Spring. Aside from the killings, mass murders and systematic use of violence, numerous other human rights violations have been committed by his regime, including mass arrests, abductions, enforced disappearances, detention of civilians, acts of torture, degrading and inhumane treatment, deprivation of food, water, medical supplies and denial of access to hospitals.
Children are chased down and told to kneel by Syrian security forces to be shot dead. Civilian patients inside hospitals are left to bleed to death or are killed by lethal methods. Soldiers are shot from behind when they refuse to kill civilians.
People are shot dead in their homes or taken by Syrian security forces. Civilians are snatched from the streets by Syrian security forces. Many are detained in prisons and secret detention centers and brutally tortured using horrific interrogation techniques. Most die as a result.
Women and girls are raped in their own homes. The list goes on and on and these crimes against humanity are just a glimpse of what the Syrian regime is capable of. It has been more than19 months since the beginning of the Syrian revolution and it is clearly evident that the situation there escalated a long time ago, but as al-Assad tortures and slaughters thousands of Syrian citizens and takes away their human dignity, the world continues to stare in silence.
The United Nations stands neutral in this situation of gross injustice, allowing the murdering of innocents to continue. By standing by, we are all just passively protecting the interests of countries like Russia and China and siding with the oppressor.
Since the beginning of the revolution, almost 40,000 people have been killed in Syria, nearly 35,000 of them civilians. As many as 28,000 Syrians have disappeared, possibly abducted by Syrian security forces.
More than 325,000 Syrians are forced to live as refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq and as many as 2 million Syrians have been internally displaced.
The Free Syrian Army, the main armed opposition fighting Assad and his regime, is mainly composed of defected members of the Syrian Armed Forces and volunteers. It seems to be the only force fighting for the rights of the Syrian people.
Imposing sanctions on al-Assad is not enough international pressure to save innocent lives in Syria. To begin with, efforts have to be made to aid the Free Syrian Army in overthrowing the regime, even if it means supplying them with weapons.
A no-fly zone over territory held by the Free Syrian Army has to be imposed. Due to a lack of support that Syria is receiving from the UN, the Arab League also has to play a larger role in assisting the Free Syrian Army. We all have to fight for the freedom of Syrians and hold al-Assad accountable for his crimes against humanity, because no one in this world is free when others are oppressed.
This dictator must be brought to trial as a war criminal for torturing and murdering thousands of innocent Syrians.
Let’s not prove that there is less than 1 percent of humanity left in us. We must demand a free Syria where everyone is treated with respect and dignity and is equal, whether they are Sunni, Alawite, Kurdish, Christian or part of any other group.
Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria, appealed for a brief ceasefire during the recent Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha, but instead of being a step toward negotiation and freedom for all Syrians, the killing continued.
Amidst all the destruction and sorrow, I pray that Eid brought at least some happiness and peace to Syrians suffering under a tyrant’s rule. There is a verse in the Quran that says, “Through hardship comes ease.” The Syrian people have suffered many hardships under al-Assad’s oppressive regime and have lost everything, but one day, God willing, Syrians will have freedom.

Williams College Captures Halloween Spirit

Yelena Samofalova / youthjournalism.org
Photographer's pick of the pumpkin litter at Williams College

Yelena Samofalova / youthjournalism.org
Students at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. get into the spirit of Halloween with a massive pumpkin carving party Friday night.

Yelena Samofalova / youthjournalism.org
Katya Ageeva, 20, of Moscow, Russia, tried her hand at carving a jack-o-lantern for the first time on Friday at Williams College, where she is spending a year as a teaching assistant in Russian. She said she thought carving the pumpkin was fun.


Yelena Samofalova / youthjournalism.org
Students and others work hard carving pumpkins Friday at Williams College
Yelena Samofalova / youthjournalism.org
Carvers concentrate on getting just the right face













Yelena Samofalova / youthjournalism.org
Some pumpkins weren't carved at all, but painted.

Breast Cancer Patient Begins Treatment, Plans To Encourage Mammograms

Photo provided
Queens of Pink with breast cancer patient Corky Craft. From left, Toni Wilcox, Kaley Willis, Carol Ware, Corky Craft, Arlene Long, Kristyn Boswell, Kelsey Breaux and Joyce Bennett. In front are Linley Wilcox and Chloe Landry.

By Kaley Willis
Reporter
SULPHUR, Louisiana, U.S.A. – It’s October, that time of year when crisp, brown leaves tumble to the ground, children dress up in their scariest costumes to beg for a sugar rush and breast cancer awareness is buzzing through the air all over the country.
Citizens around the nation are doing their part for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. High school football teams are wearing pink on Friday nights, people of all ages are participating in walks to raise awareness, and here in Louisiana, the Queen of Pink organization is busier than ever.
Queen of Pink is made up of women of all ages who join forces to raise awareness and money for breast cancer patients. Every month, a donation is made by the “queens” to a woman battling the disease to help her with expenses of treatment and everyday struggles.
For the month of October, we picked a very special woman, Corky Craft of Lake Charles. The Queens of Pink gave her a check for $500 at the Ragley Heritage and Timber Festival on Oct. 20.
Craft, who was diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer just two months before, has not been totally affected by everything yet.
“I start chemotherapy for the first time next week, but it is just for prevention since the cancer hasn’t spread to my lymph nodes,” she said. “I’ve already had a surgery, but I didn't have a mastectomy, I had a lumpectomy. Other than just being very sore, I haven't had to alter anything in my life just yet.”
As the director of education at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital and a longtime employee of McNeese State University’s nursing department the diagnosis came as a big surprise to Craft, a mother of three.
“I was kind of shocked and just really surprised to learn that I have cancer. I’ve never had any cysts or anything like that. I remember that I had great-grandmothers who had it, but nobody else in the family had breast cancer, or any type for that matter.”
Despite this, Craft remains a hardworking woman who is optimistic in the face of misfortune.
“I’m really positive. I have a wonderful surgeon and a wonderful oncologist. I’m so glad that this treatment is just for prevention. I’m happy I’m going to live a healthier lifestyle.”
One thing is certain: Craft is an inspirational woman. She describes her concerns and hopes for the future to be simply for this to not reoccur.
The Queens of Pink hope to be able to help many more women like her through their battles, and that one day, a cure is found.
“I am just thrilled that Queen of Pink selected me and I hope that I can help out next year and continue to be a supporter of them. I am going to encourage everyone I know to get a mammogram every year,” said Craft.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Outrage Should Stir Action To Stop Taliban


By Madison Pollard
Reporter
LONDON, England – There was public outrage when the story broke that the Taliban had stopped a bus in Swat, Pakistan, and shot a teenage girl in the head.
Further outrage ensued when it was revealed that she was targeted because she believed that girls should have the right to an education. Malala Yousafzai is a 14-year-old Pakistani, known for her political activism. When the Taliban seized control of the Swat Valley in 2008, she protested the destruction of girls’ schools and the outright denial of any education for women.
Malala was transferred to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham on Monday, where she is said to be in stable condition, and making a slow, but steady recovery. She has been lauded by the press and public alike. Angelina Jolie has ‘told her children about the bravery of Malala,’ and countless editorials have named her a hero, and an inspiration to an entire generation of women.
Malala Yousafzai official Facebook photo
Malala Yousafzai in an undated photo
But, truthfully, what surprised me most about the shooting was the public’s reaction. How can we be surprised? She was attacked by the Taliban, dangerous Islamic extremists. These are the kinds of people who will put a woman to death if she drives.
I don’t want my position to be misinterpreted. I have nothing against organised religion, or Islam. It’s when breaking religious rules becomes a crime against the state, and not against your faith or family, that these situations arise.
Education should be a right, not a privilege. Freedom to move from place to place without the fear of death is a fundamental human right, not a privilege.
How can it be that in the UK, I can run for parliament, drive, drink, and study and do almost anything I want, but some Pakistani women have none of these rights? They can’t go to a soccer match, be in the company of any man who is not a close relative, or even get a basic education.
And our governments condone this, by their refusal to intervene on behalf of these women.
I believe Malala is a hero, and I hope she does inspire a generation of women. Maybe this could be the generation that will bring change. I just hope no more teenagers are gunned down before that happens.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Buddhist Sand Art Created At Trinity College

Francis Byrne / youthjournalism.org
The mandala built at the Trinity College Austin Arts Center

By Francis Byrne
Reporter
HARTFORD, Conn., U.S.A. – A recent mandala exhibit at the Trinity College Austin Arts Center showed the Buddhist art of sand.
“Mandala: The Sacred Art of Sand,” was open at the college for about a month before closing over the weekend.
The Buddhist nuns who came to the U.S. from Nepal to show this off are incredibly skilled, using metal tubes to form intricate designs with colored sand. 
Before entering the room where the mandala is being made, you had to remove your shoes, as is customary in their culture, and the atmosphere inside brought you into another world. There was a distinct smell of incense, and as I walked in, the nuns were in the middle of a melodic chant.
They were all dressed in simple red robes with nearly all of their hair cut off.
The mandala, a large circle with intricate symbols, sat alone in the middle of the room, with a backdrop of an altar of the current Dalai Lama.                       
There was a space where visitors could try the art of mandala making, and the nuns even treated some of them to a display of their skill as they worked on the mandala. The process is extremely physically straining, as it requires them to bend over at unnatural angles and take great care with the delicate sand grains. 
The nuns escaped brutal treatment in Tibet to form the Keydong Thuk-Che-Cho-Ling Nunnery in Kathmandu, Nepal. They are building a new monastery and their trip to the U.S. was, in part, a way to raise funds for this.
On October 14, the day after the exhibit closed, the mandala was destroyed by being put back into the Connecticut River, as is custom with the work of art in Buddhist culture.
Seeing the mandala was is a great experience, and I’m glad I did. I recommend that anyone who has a chance to see a mandala do so when they can.

In Targeting Malala, Taliban Attacked Islam

By Mehran Shamit
Senior Reporter
TORONTO, Canada – The assassination attempt on Malala Yousafzai by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan was nothing more than an attack on Islam.
The 14-year-old education rights activist from Swat Valley and Pakistan’s National Peace Prize winner was shot by the Taliban because she spoke out against Taliban atrocities and fought for girls’ education, a fundamental right that she is entitled to in Islam.
The Taliban’s baseless justification for targeting Yousafzai was “because of her pioneer role in preaching secularism and so called enlightened moderation,” essentially just promoting their own agenda of male dominance in society. The obvious truth behind this is that the Taliban did not target her because she preached secularism, but because she defied and condemned the anti-Islamic values of the Taliban and wanted to spread the truth that all girls had the right to an education.
The Taliban viewed the empowerment of girls as a threat and used bullets in an attempt to silence Yousafzai, because violence is their only known way of communication. Every time religious fanatics like the Taliban decide to do something completely anti-Islamic, they go on to justify and defend their violent actions taking Islamic Law out of context and completely misrepresenting Islam and creating more misconceptions about none other than every peace loving Muslim.
As a Muslim, it is outrageous that groups like the Taliban, who continuously strive to attack Islam by going against its teachings and justifying violent attacks in the name of Islam, put Muslims in a position where people judge us and define who we are based on misconceptions of Islam and the bigotry created by these fanatics.
Living in the West, I always find myself defending my religion. I can say that the extremist beliefs and values put forth by an anti-Islamic and misogynist group like the Taliban do not in any way represent Muslims, and they definitely do not represent the teachings of Islam.
Malala Yousafzai's official Facebook photo

Malala Yousafzai in an undated photo
Islam teaches us to seek knowledge and develop our ability to think critically and logically so that we can grow intellectually and apply our intellect to actually understanding Islam and truly believing in its teachings. The only way it is possible for us to do that is by getting an education. Prophet Mohammad said, “Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim.”
The Quran also says, “Are those equal, those who know and those who do not know?”
In Islam, clearly education is not only a right but the responsibility of both males and females. Contrary to what many people may believe, Islam does not restrict or limit opportunities for women and it certainly does not deny them their fundamental right to an education. Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was the first female prime minister of a Muslim country, once said, “We learned at an early age that it was men’s interpretation of our religion that restricted women’s opportunities, not our religion itself.”
I think that people really have to understand this. The fact is that it is not Islam, but sexist interpretations created and forced into society by men, that restrict and limit rights and opportunities for women.  I want people to know that the Taliban and their highly condemnable acts are far from what Islam teaches and that they do not represent or define Muslims in any way.
Malala Yousafzai is a brave young girl who fought for her right to an education, a right given to her in Islam and a right that no girl should ever be denied. In Islam, we are taught that killing an innocent person is the equivalent of killing humanity as a whole. The brutal attack on Malala was an attack on all of humanity and we should all pray for her recovery. 

Also see these other YJI pieces about Malala Yousafazai:

Taliban Attack On Teen Girl 'Unbelievable'

Pakistanis Blame Taliban, Government For Attack On 14-Year-Old Malala Yousafazai

Pakistan Prays For Malala, Against Taliban

Malala Yousafazai's Brave Voice Is Heard

Everyone Should Stand Up For Malala

Pakistani Girl Spoke Peacefully, And For Many, In Her Push For Girls' Education

Monday, October 15, 2012

Taliban's Attack On Teen Girl 'Unbelievable'


By Tamar Gorgadze
Junior Reporter
LORTON, Virginia, U.S.A. – When first reading the news about Malala Yousafazi, all I could do was ponder on about millions of other girls worldwide who have tried to be as courageous as her and instead of being respected and honored for making a positive impact in their country, they have been treated unfairly and cruelly.

Last week, the Taliban hunted down this proponent of girls’ education who is just 14, found her on her way home from school and shot her in the head. She’s in a British hospital in serious condition. After the attack, the Taliban claimed responsibility and said they’d try again to kill her if they could.
It’s unbelievable how someone is capable of not only shooting a child, but to also be more than willing to do it again. As much as we try to understand, we never will know the physiological state of mind of that Taliban member who was raised to think very differently from the rest of us. We can only stand up for what’s right and create noise and encourage young women, no matter the distance, to never doubt what they know is right and to continuously show that women are strong, audacious and intelligent.
Malala Yousafzai's official Facebook photo
Malala Yousafzai
I’d love to see young girls around the world take what Malala did for her country as an example and try to do the same for theirs. If a girl in a country with no rights for women stood up and attempted to empower women and promote their right to an education, then people living in countries full of freedom should be more than capable of giving service to others in need.
There will always be problems to fix in this world and the list will only get longer, so be bold and an active member in this world and speak out the truth.
It’s times like these when we come to understand all the efforts that have been made by United States to stop the Taliban from continuing with its horrendous crimes.
We may all disagree on foreign affairs, whether we should stay involved or stay out of another country’s business, but if we were to just talk about this innocent 14-year-old girl – who only wants a brighter life for women in her country and craves a good education, but has not even the slightest right to speak her mind – we would have no choice but to be on the same page and feel deeply saddened by her circumstances.
Those of us lucky enough to enjoy freedom and education should truly appreciate the life we have now and stop complaining about pointless matters because, as Malala showed us so well, there is someone out there yearning for the privileges we already have.

Pakistanis Blame Taliban, Government For Attack On 14-Year-Old Malala Yousafzai

Arooj Khalid / youthjournalism.org
The girls' campus of the Crescent Model Higher Secondary School in Lahore, Pakistan. The school offers classes from first through 12th grade and is considered one of the best in the city.

By Waleed Tariq
Correspondent
KARACHI, Pakistan – People interviewed here recently expressed sorrow and anger over the Taliban’s assault on 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai last week.
“Honestly I think this is nothing but a cowardly action by the ruthless self-appointed guardians of religion who consider even a [teenage girl] as a threat,” said Fatima Zehra, who is in her final year of studying the social sciences at SZABIST in Karachi.
“I'm really depressed on this incident; we are already suffering from target killings and bombings, but this time, they attacked a girl who was harbinger of hope and change,” said Andeel Ali, a young social entrepreneur based in Karachi.
Yousafzai, who was an outspoken proponent of education for girls in Swat, the area of Pakistan where she lived, was shot in the head on her way home from school on October 9. The Taliban said it targeted her because she spoke up about education. 
She was moved Monday to a hospital in the United Kingdom, the BBC reported and is in serious condition.
“Fundamentalists and extremists want to impose their way of Islam and ideology,” said Riaz Shaikh, who heads the Social Sciences Department at SZABIST.
The Taliban, he added, want to eliminate logical, rational debate in society.
SZABIST photo
Riaz Shaikh
“They want to take back everyone to primitive ages. Such actions are affecting us negatively; girls and women are already facing discrimination and the Taliban have already demolished their schools,” Shaikh said. “There is an urgent need to handle this menace with iron hand now, else, they will go out of control.”
Ali and others said Pakistan’s government deserved some of the blame for failing to keep people safe.
“I'm disappointed from my government as they have failed to improve the educational as well as the security situation of our country,” said Ali. “They themselves are secure but their voters and taxpayers are suffering.”
Shahmir Ahsanullah, a young filmmaker from Karachi, put the onus squarely on Islamabad.
“All this is due to the inefficient law and order situation in our country,” Ahsanullah said. “Since last 11 years, not even a single terrorist is given death sentence. The only solution is to activate military courts, otherwise, killings in Pakistan will continue."
Yousafzai’s actions – standing for the cause of education for girls – are commendable, Zehra said.
“Malala is a courageous girl!” said Zehra. “It’s sad we couldn't protect her. May she recover soon.”

Friday, October 12, 2012

Pakistan Prays For Malala, Against Taliban


By Arooj Khalid
Reporter
LAHORE, Pakistan – Across the length and breadth of Pakistan at noon today, people prayed, whether they were at home, school, an office, a mosque or wherever they happened to be.
All of them prayed for the same thing: the recovery of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who is lying unconscious in a military hospital after a Taliban gunman shot her three days ago on the way home from school.
Thinking of Gul Makai, the pen name that Malala used, gives me goose bumps. My heart mourns. What else can I do? I feel depressed and frustrated that women who stand up for change, who decide to face whatever may come, can suffer such a cruel assault.
What was Malala’s crime? That she wanted to study? That she spoke the truth? I don’t understand.
On one side are the vicious Taliban, loaded with heavy weapons, and on the other, there is the innocent Malala, who only has a pen and some pieces of paper.
The Pakistani nation has always stood against the Taliban in one way or another, but I have never seen such general outrage against its activities. I hope that it will lead to a good ending.
In the long run, Malala and her passion for education will win, not the fanatics and their disgusting agenda.
Malala Yousafzai Facebook photo

Malala Yousafzai in undated photo
When I was very young, I visited the Swat Valley, where Malala lives. I have faint memories of a peaceful, beautiful valley.
Then the Taliban came, setting up military operations there, bringing hard times for many, including Malala, who couldn’t go to school freely.
Thousands of other girls in northwestern Pakistan continue to seek an education and remain united in their commitment to keep studying and never stop.  We must support all of them.
Yet when I read parts from Malala’s diary, I am filled with shame because I don’t think that any of us would have been so brave if we were in her place. I can’t imagine how she found the courage to sneak to school in her pink dress, slipping past the Taliban soldiers so she could pursue her studies. Because of her commitment to education, her passions, ideas and words matter.
And yet she is only one girl.
What about those numerous innocent Pakistanis who die every day in bomb blasts, targeted strikes and drone attacks?
In a drone attack yesterday, 18 children died. Didn’t they have the right to live, too? Don’t their lives have any value? Don’t they, too, have passions and dreams?
Of course, Malala was a brilliant student who wanted to promote education, but isn’t that what every student in the whole of Pakistan wants? Aren’t each of them important? Why are so many killed for no reason?
Who is going to answer these questions? Who is going to care for them?
The Taliban’s reasoning for shooting Malala is totally baseless. Westernism? Admiration for U.S. President Barack Obama? The desire to learn?
The gunman who shot her supposedly said Malala was “propagating against the soldiers of Allah. She must be punished.”
But Malala was merely promoting education, which is an important part of Islam. A well-known hadith says that getting an education is mandatory for every Muslim man and woman.” So how can they think that they are soldiers of Allah?
The Taliban does nothing to promote the rules of Islam. They have, in fact, always been against its tenets.
Malala did exactly what Islam calls on her to do by stressing the importance of education. How can the Taliban argue that education is a Western influence? It is not.
Moreover, even if she was promoting Westernism, so what? It’s not a crime and deserves no punishment.
Pakistan itself was only formed because its founders valued education. They were purely Eastern and fully educated, too. Without their formal schooling, Pakistan would never have gained its independence.
Besides, I don’t think there is anything to be scared of if the West mixes with East and vice versa. The world is now a “global village” and people, cultures and customs are coming closer to each other.
What harm can sharing one’s culture do? There should be no restriction to adopting something better, no matter where it comes from.
And if Malala admired Obama, why shouldn’t she have the right? He is a noted leader with good qualities. There is nothing wrong with admiring him.
Besides, everyone has an opinion and in Pakistan, everyone has a fundamental right to freedom of expression.
I cannot understand why Malala and so many others should be treated so badly.
The whole world is with Malala now and I don’t think the cruel men who shot her will escape the consequences of their actions.
Meantime, we must pray for Malala. We must stand united. And we must make her dreams come true.

Help us keep this kind of writing coming! Youth Journalism International needs your financial help. You can donate by following this link.