By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
On Sunday, Oct. 17, Nobel laureate and human rights activist Malala Yousafzai issued a personal letter through the international campaigning agency Avaaz to the world on the deteriorating situation of women and girls in her native Afghanistan since the takeover of that country by the Taliban last August.
That letter, which was also signed by Afghan women’s rights advocates Afghan women’s rights advocates Zarqa Yaftali and Shaharzad Akbar, and Shaharzad Akbar, was as follows:
“The Taliban tried to kill me when I fought for girls’ education. And now, it’s been one month since the Taliban in Afghanistan banned millions of girls from school.
“The situation is dire and our Afghan sisters need our help. So I’m personally asking you to join me, alongside Afghan women’s rights advocates Zarqa Yaftali and Shaharzad Akbar, in calling on leaders to get all Afghan girls back in school.
“Help us make this one of the biggest calls for girls’ education the world has ever seen, and I’ll deliver it directly to G-20 leaders.”
The letter also included a message directed specifically to the Taliban and world leaders to rectify the current restrictions on girls’ education in Afghanistan.
“One month ago, the Taliban shut school gates for millions of Afghan girls — robbing them of not just an education but also their futures,” Yousafzai wrote.
“Afghanistan is the only country in the world that forbids girls’ education.”
…Nobel laureate and human rights activist Malala Yousafzai
“Afghanistan is now the only country in the world that forbids girls’ education. Leaders everywhere must take urgent, decisive action to get every Afghan girl back in school.”
Yousafzai specifically called out the Taliban authorities, reminding them that they had “assured the world that you would respect the rights of girls and women,”
But instead, she said, “you are denying millions their right to learn.”
“Reverse the de facto ban on girls’ education and re-open girls’ secondary schools immediately,” she demanded.
To the leaders of the G-20 nations, Yousafzai said that “discussing the importance of education isn’t enough.”
“Use the G-20 Leaders’ Declaration to call on the Taliban to allow girls to go to school and provide urgent funding to support a coordinated education plan for all Afghan children,” she said.
And, finally, Yousafzai called on leaders of Muslim countries around the globe to recognize that “religion does not justify preventing girls from going to school.”
“Make this clear to Taliban leaders by issuing public statements on the Islamic imperative for girls’ complete education,” she told them.
“The longer a girl stays out of school, the less likely she is to return. Join us in calling on leaders around the world to defend Afghan girls’ right to learn and lead.”
Yousafzai’s letter called on all supporters to sign an Avaaz petition in solidarity with the Afghan girl’s cause.