Dubai: Ziauddin Yousafzai, the father of Malala, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan in 2012 for defying the terrorist group’s ban on girls attending school, hopes his new book Let Her Fly will inspire more fathers to advocate feminism.
Published in November, Ziauddin’s memoirs on raising Malala to stand up for her rights, in what was one of the most dangerous places for women on earth, will be showcased at this week’s Abu Dhabi International Book Fair at the Abu Dhabi Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) from April 24-30.
Shot in the head aged 15 while on the way to sit her exams in Swat, Malala miraculously survived the attack to become a world renowned equal rights campaigner and the youngest ever Nobel Prize winner.
Now 21, she credits her father — a fellow activist and educator — for encouraging her beliefs, but that remains a sore subject for him.
“I was the first person to ask myself what my role was and whether I could have stopped it,” said Ziauddin of the shooting, while speaking to Gulf News ahead of his appearance in the UAE capital this weekend, where he appeared on Friday.
“I remember we received threats from the terrorists before Malala’s attack and I thought then that we should maintain a lower profile, but Malala never did.
“She raised her voice for the rights of equal education for girls all over the world and I was a great witness to her strength and power.
“It was scary to speak against terrorists but it’s scarier not to. And in the end they couldn’t stop us because we believed in our mission.
“The bad guys wanted to finish her and make me sad forever, but God had different plans and now it has created a huge opportunity,” added the 50-year-old of Malala’s ability to have put equal education back on the global agenda.
“Malala was speaking up for 50,000 girls who were being denied an equal education in Swat, but now she is speaking for 130 million worldwide.
“I was a leader against Talibanisation and bigotry and she was one of my supporters, but now she is the leader and I am one of her millions of supporters.”
Ziauddin now hopes more fathers will read his book and raise their daughters to be free and their sons to be feminists.
“Where women are confined and limited to roles inside the house and aren’t educated or encouraged, those countries and communities see deprivation and stagnation. Only a bird with two wings can fly.
“If all girls around the world are educated for the next 12 years we will raise $32 trillion for the world economy, so equality really is something that helps humanity and it begins at home.”
Malala’s family now live in the UK and have only been back to Pakistan once, last year, since the attack. So how does Ziauddin feel his message is perceived there?
“If they are not indoctrinated by particular ideologies or shortsightedness then this book will open their eyes,” he said.
“Things are changing. The situation has improved. We’ve had great women speak up for equal rights like Benazir Bhutto and Asma Juhangir, and Pakistan has great women who are pilots, engineers, doctors and teachers, so I’m optimistic and there’s every possibility, that we will see greater equality and equity in Pakistan in the coming decades.”
What: The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair
Where: Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC)
When: April 24-30
Need more information? visit www.adbookfair.com