Why is Malala Yousafzai so popular

Home visit - "Malala has too many enemies in Pakistan"

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The visit of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate is only possible under extensive surveillance. Britta Petersen, expert on Pakistan, explains why this is so.

Six years after she was shot in Pakistan, child rights activist Malala Yousafzai has returned to her home country for the first time.

Britta Petersen, an expert on Pakistan, doubts whether the visit of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate will bring much benefit to the Pakistanis. The journalist believes that Malala can do more abroad.

SRF News: How popular is Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai in her home country of Pakistan?

Britta Petersen: There are sections of Pakistani civil society that support Malala. However, in the current discourse, the other side has the upper hand. Islamist forces have been trying to ruin Malala for years - for example by spreading rumors about them. She is a traitor because she promotes a bad image of Pakistan and speaks badly of Pakistan in the west, they claim. It's a sad situation.

Islamists have been trying to ruin Malala for years, for example by spreading rumors about her.

Why are such smear campaigns even popular in Pakistan?

The younger generation has been exposed to Islamist propaganda for many years now. That is why many now sympathize with the circles that spread such lies. You are very involved in social media, and the response to your campaigns is correspondingly high. In addition, even among the non-Islamists, many Pakistani feel on the defensive because nobody really wants their own country to have a bad image. Envy certainly plays a role - Malala lived in the USA for a few years, published a book and made a lot of money with it.

Malala was politically active from a young age, inspired by her father. Even before the attack, she wrote an anonymous blog for the BBC. Is this activism one of the reasons that she is so hostile?

Malala comes from the Swat Valley in eastern Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan. Most of the Pashtuns live there. When Malala started her blog for the BBC nine years ago, the government and army let the Taliban do their thing in this area as they saw fit. The situation for the people living there was accordingly dire, and when Malala was shot in 2012, the Taliban had the Swat Valley completely in their hands. The government later realized the strategy was a mistake and sent the army to retake the Swat Valley. Incidentally, this was by no means always shaped by the extremely conservative Islamic principle. Rather, the people living there were considered tolerant. Before Islam gained a foothold in the Swat Valley, Buddhism dominated there.

There are many forces in Pakistan who have Malala on their hit list.

Malala's visit takes place under great security precautions. How safe is she in Pakistan today?

She is apparently meeting with the army chief and can probably count on the army's protection. That makes your stay pretty safe. Without this protection it would be very dangerous for Malala, because there are many forces in the country whose hit list she is on. She will probably never be able to move around Pakistan again without police protection.

How has Pakistan changed in the six years of Malala's exile?

In a way, Pakistan has become more stable. In 2008, military dictator Pervez Musharaf was deposed. A civil president, Asif Ali Zardari, came to power. One had the feeling that Pakistan is now becoming more democratic. However, the security situation in the country was not particularly good because the army did not welcome the political developments with great enthusiasm.

The security situation has improved - that is what democracy has been weakened.

In 2013, Nawaz Sharif became president, who also had his problems with the army and was ousted by its propaganda. At the same time, the military stepped up its crackdown on the Taliban. In the meantime the security situation has improved, the army is firmly in the saddle - but democracy is greatly weakened.

What about women's rights in Pakistan?

There have been many initiatives at parliamentary and legislative level to improve the situation of women. However, there is widespread conservatism across the country. Accordingly, it will take a long time before the situation of women will actually improve.

Will Malala be able to make a difference with her visit to Pakistan?

Many people greet them warmly, as you can see on social media here. However, it is questionable how much it can actually achieve in view of the rigorous shielding for security reasons. Her influence is probably greater when she lives abroad, studies there and campaigns for women's rights. She just has too many enemies in Pakistan.

The interview was conducted by Marc Allemann.

Emotional words after returning

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After arriving in Pakistan, Malala gave an emotional speech, “I can't believe it's really happening. In the past few years I have dreamed of going back to my homeland so often, ”she said with tears in her eyes. Now she has come back to see her people. You will continue to work for the education of young people in Pakistan, she promised.

In October 2012, masked Taliban fighters stopped Malala's school bus in the Swat Valley and shot her in the head. Malala was 15 years old at the time.

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  • Comment from Eschlimann Konrad (escher)
    It is impressive how a young woman by the name of Malala Yousafzai can frighten brave adult Islamists that they will only dare to approach them in a group and armed.
    This shows that the sharpest weapon against these extremists is still education.
    How much these cowards are embarrassing themselves in the process, they don't seem to be aware of.
    Agree agree to the comment
  • Comment from Alex Volkart (Lex18)
    Malala does not show a bad image of Pakistan, it simply shows who Pakistan is.
    Agree agree to the comment
  • Commentary by Patrik Schaub (Kripta)
    "Malala is a traitor because she promotes a bad image for Pakistan ...".
    Ironically, fanatical Islamists claim this - those who are actually responsible for the bad image themselves. Excuses to distract from your own inability. Or do they really have the feeling that someone in the West seriously believes that?
    Agree agree to the comment

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