TIME Nigeria

Malala: Save My Nigerian Sisters

Malala Yousafzai, visits Zaatari refugee camp near the Syrian border, in Mafraq, Jordan, Feb. 18, 2014.
Malala Yousafzai, visits Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, Feb. 18, 2014. Mohammad Hannon—AP

Boko Haram's extremism and brutal activities are against the teachings of Allah. Islam is a religion of peace, where women are respected and education is valued above all

It makes me sad to think that almost a month has gone by since more than 200 girls were kidnapped by the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram. These are innocent young schoolgirls with their whole lives ahead of them. They have families who are going through unimaginable pain. Their only crime was no different than my own: all they wanted was to get an education.

“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” said Abubakar Shekau, the man they say is Boko Haram’s leader. I felt sick when I read this. What has the world come to? These people kidnap girls and then threaten to sell them! And in the name of religion? These extremist and brutal activities are against the teaching of Allah. Islam is a religion of peace, where women are respected and education is valued above all. As Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon Him) said, “It is the duty of every person to get knowledge.”

When the Quran was revealed, the first word from God was Iqra, which means “read”. The word Islam means “peace.”

Where I am from, in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, more than 400 schools were bombed by the Taliban. My friends and I had to hide our books under our shawls when we went to school. We would wear plain clothes rather than our uniform. We feared for our lives. But more than that, we feared losing our precious school. We were not willing to give up education at any cost.

But schools are not supposed to be places of violence. They are supposed to be havens of protection for children. Where children go to learn, to dream of a better future.

I express solidarity with these girls and their families. I believe we all are like a family. The abducted schoolgirls are my sisters and I call on the international community and the government of Nigeria to realize their responsibilities, take action, and save my sisters.

We all must work together in times of trial, not just find fault. I hope that the help offered by the United Kingdom and America will help Nigeria’s leaders make sure these girls are safely returned home. The protection of all school children in Nigeria must be guaranteed.

The state of education in Nigeria needs to be fixed. There are over 10 million children of primary school age out of school. In other words, one out every six children out of school in the world lives in Nigeria. The Nigerian government needs to step up to deliver protection to its people and education to all its children.

And the world needs to invest in Nigeria. We need to support Nigerian girls and women calling for equality and justice. They are the only people who can ever bring lasting and meaningful change in Nigeria.

We all must stand up and raise our voices for peace and justice. I considered it my responsibility and a part of my campaign to continue speaking for my sisters in Nigeria.

Enough is enough. Bring Back our Girls.

 

Malala’s organization, MalalaFund.org, has launched a special fund in response to the crisis in Nigeria, with 100% of funds raised to go to local Nigerian nonprofit organizations focused on education and advocacy for girls and women.

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