As Malala Yousafzai, the Swat Valley activist became the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, there won’t be a better time to talk about Nabila Rehman of Wazirsthan, who didn’t even get ten per cent of the attention and recognition Malala received.
On October 24, 2012, the nine-year-old Nabila was learning how to pick okra from her grandmother in their home garden in Waziristan in rural Pakistan. Suddenly they heard the sound of a CIA operated drone, which was a familiar sound to those in rural Pakistan. Without any prior notice, the unmanned aircraft delivered its wrath on Nabila’s family from the sky. From the attack, she lost her loving grandmother, whom her father described as the ‘string that kept his family together.’ Nabila, her brother Zubair and seven other children were wounded. The parties who were responsible for the death of Nabila and Zubair’s grandmother never came up with an apology or an explanation.
A year after her grandmother’s unfortunate death, Nabila, her father and her brother travelled to Washington D.C. to tell their harrowing story to the relevant authorities and ask what their grandmother did wrong? But the reception they received in the US was extremely cold. The Congressional hearing at which Nabila and her family gave testimony, only five Congressmen out of 430 showed up to listen to their story. This was the same Congress which showed much sympathy towards Malala and her story. The bulk of the American mainstream media, which went to town with Malala’s story, also neglected Nabila’s story.
Why? Was it because Nabila was not a victim of a known American enemy like Malala, who nearly got killed by the barbaric Taliban? Assed Baig of Huffington Post puts the two incidents, in a rather historical context, where the Western world identifies itself as a saviour among the fighting ignorant natives. Baig writes: “This is a story of a native girl being saved by the white man. Flown to the UK, the Western world can feel good about itself as they save the native woman from the savage men of her home nation. It is a historic racist narrative that has been institutionalised. Journalists and politicians were falling over themselves to report and comment on the case. The story of an innocent brown child that was shot by savages for demanding an education and along comes the knight in shining armour to save her.”
The actions of the West, the bombings, the occupations, the wars all seem justified now. “See, we told you, this is why we intervene to save the natives.”
The apathy shown towards Nabila’s story by the Western world however doesn’t take anything away from Malala’s story. She in its true sense is a heroine whom stood firmly against oppressive forces, risking her life. In fact, while thanking President Barack Obama, whom she met and the United States for supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan, she raised concerns about CIA drone attacks. “I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fuelling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact,” Malala was quoted as saying. But the big difference was, Malala’s oppressors were the same enemies of the Western world; therefore she fits very well into the Western World’s political agenda, whereas Nabila’s story shows the world the nakedness of its military and political actions.