Lesley O’Dowd

National news in countries around the world showed 16 year old Malala addressing the United Nations in July 2013. Viewers heard her eloquent plea for the right to an education. Since recommencing in England the education interrupted by the near-fatal Taliban bullet in her head, Malala has produced an autobiography, co-authored by a former Sunday Times journalist, Christina Lamb. Seen through the teenager’s eyes, the story provides an illuminating description of life in the Swat valley, the implantation of the Taliban and a candid account of Pakistan’s political morass.  The tone is forthright, unsentimental and free of posturing, yet conveys Malala’s proud and fervent Islamic beliefs.

The bullet in her brain has not impinged on her innate passion for truth and education, defined by the time she was ten. The  other hero who emerges in the tale is her father, who pulled himself out of poverty to set up a school of academic repute.  Not only did he denounce publicly, in constant danger, the mad exactions of the Taliban, but he also let his beloved daughter speak up on BBC and CNN as the Taliban bombed schools, shut down girls’ education, beheaded locals and attacked unescorted or unveiled females.

Benazir Bhutto succumbed to corruption and cronyism. Malala may well be destined to  become Pakistan’s Jeanne d’Arc, a titanium plate in her head replacing the shield. Even though she has not yet finished high school, her story is as instructive and as courageous as that voice we heard addressing the United Nations.