The 16-year-old Pakistani activist who survived a gunshot to the head from the Taliban had some unexpectedly harsh words for the president.
When a 16-year-old Pakistani young woman sat down with President Barack Obama, the course of conversation was expected to tread lightly on the issue of education, an issue Malala Yousafzai is known for — and while her discussion with the president did include that component, it also came with another message from Malala: Halt the drone attacks in Pakistan.
Malala has become known as a hero among women, particularly in her native Pakistan, as she was shot by the Taliban on her way to attending school, a dangerous act for a female. Having survived a gunshot wound to the head, the young woman has re-emerged as a voice for female education, touting her cause as one that’s key to peace.
Her visit to the White House was met with celebration by Obama and the first lady, who stated they had invited her to the Oval Office as a way to thank her for her “inspiring and passionate work on behalf of girls education in Pakistan,” according to a White House statement.
Malala had a different conversation in mind.
“I thanked President Obama for the United States’ work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for the Syrian refugees,” she said in a statement. “I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling 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.”
Her statements gained widespread attention on social media, with Twitter users utilizing their allotted 140 characters to show their support for a young woman who summed up the thoughts of many Americans.
“Pakistani Malala Yousafzai tells Obama to stop #drone strikes! Give this young woman a Nobel peace prize,” Code Pink, a peace organization vocally opposed to the U.S. drone strikes, tweeted Oct. 12.
— CODEPINK (@codepink) October 12, 2013
Code Pink has been one of the most outspoken organizations against U.S. drone strikes, particularly in Pakistan.
Others used her comments to highlight the alleged hypocrisy of the Obama administration, pointing out that Malala could have been among the innocent U.S. drone victims. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, an estimated 746 people had been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan since 2006, at least 147 of whom were civilians, and 94 of whom were children.
Abby Martin, founder of Media Roots News and host on Russia Today America’s “Breaking the Set,” tweeted, “If #Malala Yousafzai survived a U.S. #drone bombing instead of a Taliban gunshot, we would never know her name.”
— Abby Martin (@AbbyMartin) October 14, 2013
The Obama administration has repeatedly defended its drone program, referring to it as a method to fight back against terrorists posing a “continuing and imminent threat” to the United States.