art of resistance, movie/tv propaganda, Pakistan

Why I can’t celebrate Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded this Friday to India’s Kailash Satyarthi and Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai for their struggles against the suppression of children and for young people’s rights, including the right to education. That is great news, and it might almost mean Nobel Peace Prize makes sense again, after being awarded to Barack Obama in 2009 “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”, and to European Union in 2012 “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”.

Still, there is something that really troubles me. How come we (meaning the West) always recognize the “devils” of the East, the torments children like Malala had to and have to go through (in her case, with the Taliban), but always fail to recognize our own participation in creating those “devils”? How come we never talk about the things our governments are doing to the children of Pakistan, or Syria, or Iraq, or Palestine, or Yemen? Let’s just take drone strikes as an example. Last year’s tweet by George Galloway might illustrate this hypocrisy.


Galloway is absolutely right. We would never even know her name. But, since Malala’s story fits into the western narrative of the oriental oppression (in which the context underlying the creation of the oppression is left out), we all know Malala’s name. Like Assed 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 problem is, there are thousands of Malalas West helped create with endless wars, occupations, interventions, drone strikes, etc. In Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, one can hear how little we know about the drone strikes – its aims, targets, results. “Right now we have the executive branch making a claim that it has the right to kill anyone, anywhere on Earth, at any time, for secret reasons based on secret evidence, in a secret process undertaken by unidentified officials. That frightens me.” This is how Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown professor and former Pentagon official under President Obama, explained the US policy on drone strikes during a congressional hearing last year.

The following photo presents the piece that was installed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province, close to Pakistan’s northwest border with Afghanistan, by an art collective that includes Pakistanis, Americans and others associated with the French artist JR. The collective said it produced the work in the hope that U.S. drone operators will see the human face of their victims in a region that has been the target of frequent strikes.

foto/photo via notabugsplat/

That is the reality we are not being presented with. Another reality is the story of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, 14-year-old Iraqi girl, who was gang raped by five U.S. Army soldiers and killed in her house in Yusufiyah (Iraq) in 2006. She was raped and murdered after her parents and six-year-old sister Hadeel Qasim Hamza were killed. Also not irrelevant to mention is that Abeer was going to school before the US invasion but had to stop going because of her father’s concerns for her safety.

article-0-0C89D3B2000005DC-51_634x548Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi

And while the West applauds Malala (as they should), I am afraid it might be for the wrong reasons, or with a wrong perspective.  It feels like the West wants to gain an agenda that suits them or the policies they want. That is also why Malala’s views on Islam are rarely presented. She uses her faith as a framework to argue for the importance of education rather than making Islam a justification for oppression, but that is rarely mentioned. It also “doesn’t fit”.

So, my thoughts were mixed this Friday when I heard the news about the Nobel Peace Prize. On so many levels. They still are. We’ve entered a new war, and peace prize award ceremonies seem ridiculous after looking at this photo.

tumblr_nd1ycaClBV1tgyqboo1_1280“They say that if God loves you, He will let you live a long life, but I wish that He loved me a little less. I wish that I didn’t live long enough to see my country in ruins.”  Ahmad, a 102 year old Syrian refugee /photo by A. McConnell, UNHCR/

Sure, we must acknowledge the efforts of those who are fighting for a better world, but when it is done in a way that feels so calculated, unidimensional, loaded with secret agendas and tons of hypocrisy – I just can’t celebrate it.


159 thoughts on “Why I can’t celebrate Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize.

  1. Aida Armali says:

    I applause you Thank you so much someone who really understands what’s going on. When will it stop, No one knows. I hope soon though for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

  2. That one little girl nearly losing her life because she wanted to attend school inspired countless other girls (including my daughter) to take education seriously. I have to say I am proud that Malala got her peace prize. Her nonviolent and open defiance to oppression is exactly what this prize should stand for. She belongs with the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa (someday Ghandi) most of the other laureates. Personally, it helped the prize regain some credibility after some recent lapses in judgement.
    The prize has many non-western laureates you can see the list here.

    Malala a puppet? There is no logic behind such a statement except searching for a reason to excuse the violence against her. She was openly defying and criticizing the powers that be. Which we all know historically does not go well for the protester. She is a modern day white rose.

    As for the East vs West arguments. Those from the East are quoting the Eastern “the west is the bad guy” while those from the West defend and then quote Western “the east is the bad guy” …either way it is propaganda and I prefer to make up my own mind and not be told how or what to think about anything. I think that both West and East are evil. Both are stubborn and close minded and believe their way is the only way and demonize those who are different or do not conform. Both sides have committed grievous atrocities against the peoples of the region. It all boils down to…
    Nobody is right because war (in any form) and the killing of innocents is ALWAYS wrong. Not for religion, dogma, propaganda, nationalism, patriotism, or any other creed or credo humans can manipulate to make “others” inferior and turn it into permission to maim and kill.

    The problem is terms like white savior and brown devils and the persistent differentiation between east and west male and female. There is no You vs. I or Us vs. Them or West vs. East, there is only WE.
    We on this planet are all responsible for what we allow to happen.
    We should learn from wise and nonviolent protesters like Malala and shrug the chains our oppressors use to keep us down.
    We must learn to recognize our sameness rather than our differences.
    But most of all
    We need to celebrate and be grateful every time good has conquered evil.
    Malala is certainly such an example, no matter who does or doesn’t celebrate her.

  3. Everything seems so fake. Sometimes I just wonder, is malala just a puppet when it comes to dealing with Taliban to gain global sympathy and provide a legitimacy to the killings? No doubt west has miserably failed to tame Taliban.

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  6. Zahid Ameen says:

    an amazing truth.
    probably everyone knows the truth behind malala’s story. i am not a real huge critic of malala, even i think she deserved the nobel, but what is happening to all other kids suffering cruelness, torture and child labor in all over the world, few examples are burma and israil and syria.
    The major appreciable thing in this blog was the FACT that basically, government of most powerful country is attacking by drones on hundreds and thousands houses of many countries. They are KILLING THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN through their drone attacks. We are ashamed of those government officials who are doing these drone attacks.
    you have written more than awesome
    You have done a great great job
    whichever country you belong from, i love your post !

  7. Susan says:

    I agree with the basic premise of your essay, but I at the same time I am pleased that Malala won the Nobel. Are you aware that during her personal meeting with President Obama, who wanted his girls to meet her, she told him of her opposition to drone attacks, and the devastation they cause among innocents? This girl is no puppet. Her goal is to return to her home country and serve in politics. Does anyone remember a time in the U.S. when the goal of a politician was service?

  8. Aqilah A. Zahra says:

    Reblogged this on eyes. and commented:
    Welldone.. I like your point of view for this case. Arguably speaking, no matter what case it is, media also give contributions to the things we see and perceive. Like we are driven into one side point of view only, despite it is true or not.

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