This week in Pakistan, the Taliban attempted to murder 14-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, who has fought for women's education rights. The Taliban shot her in the head, and though surgeons were able to remove the bullet, her chances at recovery are unknown. Will Dobson says the Taliban should be afraid of Yousafzai and those like her:
A teenage girl speaking out for girls’ education is just about the most terrifying thing in the world for the Taliban. She is not some Western NGO activist who just parachuted into Pashtun country to hand out ESL textbooks. She is far more dangerous than that: A local, living advocate of progress, education, and enlightenment. If people like Yousafzia were to multiply, the Taliban would have no future.
It’s not just the symbolism of a young girl challenging their retrograde Islamist vision that should frighten them. The substance of her ideas is lethal, too. Studies suggest that educating girls is about the closest thing we have to a silver-bullet solution for countries suffering from poverty, instability, and general inequity—or, in other words, the very conditions that allow a group like the Taliban to thrive. The social returns from girls’ education in these places are astounding and consistently include higher household income, improved child nutrition, smaller family size, a more active civil society, and better local services. The benefits can be political as well. One survey of 100 countries found that educating girls encouraged a more participatory society, and hence made these places more receptive to democratic reform. And countries that become wealthier, safer, more stable, and civically active don’t offer much of a future for the medieval Islamist throwbacks who set out yesterday to kill Yousafzai. So we shouldn’t be surprised that she topped their target list. For the Taliban, an outspoken, freethinking 14 year-old girl is the beginning of the end.