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15 Sep, 2019 15:48

Malala accused of ‘hypocrisy’ over call for UN to step in for Kashmiri girls’ return to school

Malala accused of ‘hypocrisy’ over call for UN to step in for Kashmiri girls’ return to school

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai urged the UN to intervene on behalf of Kashmiri schoolgirls, prompting mixed reactions online. She was quickly reminded of the violence girls and women face in her native Pakistan.

In a series of emotional tweets, the 22-year-old activist urged the UN to “listen to Kashmiri voices and help children go safely back to school.” She said she made her plea after speaking with journalists, human rights lawyers, and students from Kashmir.

Yousafzai did not specify which part of the region, effectively split between India and Pakistan, she was referring to.

The majority of commenters and the media, however, quickly suggested that she was talking about the part controlled by India, since New Delhi recently imposed a curfew there, arguing that restrictive measures are necessary to protects locals from violence.

The young girls’ education campaigner did not mention India or criticize the curfew outright. Nevertheless, she was “deeply concerned” about the reports of people being detained and the “students who haven’t been able to attend school for more than 40 days, about girls who are afraid to leave their homes.”

Yousafzai’s viral tweets received mixed reactions online. Some praised her for standing up for the “helpless” Kashmiris and even criticized her for taking too long to speak out, but others accused her of hypocrisy for giving less attention to the plight of women and girls in Pakistan.

“Many students in balochistan are not getting education, please tweet on those students,” one person said, referring to the western mountainous Balochistan region, parts of which are controlled by Islamists, along with the Gilgit-Baltistan region.

International human rights groups have reported that many girls are denied education and married off against their will in parts of Pakistan ruled by Islamist militants, as well as in the country’s remote tribal areas. Pakistan has also seen an upswing in honor killing, with some reports saying that around 1,000 women are killed yearly despite government efforts to fight the savage custom.

Other commenters asked Yousafzai to “work for Pakistani girls” because her activism is “more required there.”

Many others blasted Yousafzai, saying the testimonies from Kashmiri girls she posted were inauthentic. The activist provided a quote from a girl who was “depressed” because she could not go to school and missed exams on August 12. Some pointed out that the schools were closed that day because August 12 was an Islamic holiday, Eid al-Fitr, which is also a public holiday in India.

“12th August was [a] holiday in India you can google it. Hey #UNGA now you know she is lying about everything,” an angry Twitter user said. “Hey Malala, make [an]other story & this time put date 14 August. Ok, do it,” another said.

Malala Yousafzai was born in Pakistan’s northeastern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region, which borders Afghanistan. With her parents’ help, she became a popular teenage blogger, advocating for girls’ education rights. In 2012, she relocated to Britain after surviving an assassination attempt by a Taliban gunman. Two years later, Yousafzai received a Nobel Peace Prize, becoming its youngest recipient.

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In her activism, Yousafzai criticized the Pakistani authorities and the situation on the ground. “In Pakistan, the Balochistan area and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa especially have suffered from violence for a very long time,” she told the New Yorker in January. “[The locals] did not even have equal rights with the rest of Pakistanis. It’s important that they’re listened to, that their voices are heard.”

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