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Afghanistan’s Malala persuades Taliban to reopen girls schools

A video of Sotooda Forotan's speech went viral

SAMAA | - Posted: Nov 7, 2021 | Last Updated: 3 weeks ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Nov 7, 2021 | Last Updated: 3 weeks ago

Sotooda Forotan delivers speech at a 12th Rabiul Awwal cremony in Herat.

A teenage Afghan girl who is being dubbed as Afghanistan’s Malala has successfully persuaded the Taliban officials to reopen girls’ secondary and high schools in Western Afghanistan.

For the first time since the Taliban takeover of the country, teenage girls returned to schools in Herat on Saturday. Youngers girls from grade 7 and below were allowed in September.

Sotooda Forotan, 15, from Herat has many things in common with Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants in October 2012 for supporting girls’ education and condemning the TTP opposition to it.

Forotan made an equally daring demand, though the results were different. On October 21, when the Taliban celebrated the birthday of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in Herat, Forotan was to read a poem at a ceremony, but she decided to deliver a short speech instead, pleading with the Taliban to reopen secondary and high schools for girls, according to an online news agency covering women rights in Afghanistan.

“Today, as a representative of girls, I want to deliver a message that is in our hearts. We all know that Herat is a city of knowledge… why should the schools be closed to girls?” she says addressing an audience of around 200. A small Taliban flag waves next to the microphone.

Some provincial Taliban officials were reportedly present at the event.

The video clip was shared by several social media profiles and news agencies including Russia’s Sputnik.

Online news agency Rukhshana Media interviewed Forotan after the video went viral.

Many viewers described how watching the speech made them cry and even the members of the Taliban who listened to her speech applauded her, the news agency said.

‘Voice of many women and children’

“I used to be the voice of many women and children, but since the Taliban took over, I have been silent and worried about what will happen to my goals for the future,” Forotan said in the interview.

PHOTO Rukhshana Media

“So I decided to do something, to represent them again.”

According to the news agency, the tenth grader says when she stood behind the microphone she recalled her mother’s tears on losing her teaching job of 14 years. She described how her 7-year-old sister, instead of playing and being happy, thought about fleeing the country with her 4-year-old brother, who can already identify the sound of shooting and bombing, Rukhshana media said adding that she also recalled the cries of her classmates and her own vanished dreams.

“All of these gave me the courage to scream in front of the Taliban officials. It was not my scream, it was the scream of a nation,” Forotan said.

Supportive father

In the interview, Forotan brings up her father’s supportive role right from the beginning. Their conservative relatives were annoyed when at her birth her father hugged the small baby and said his daughter would bring pride to the family.

Though her relatives tended to agree with Taliban ideology, her father has been her biggest supporter, encouraging her to read and become an activist from the tender age of seven, she said.

Malala Yousafzai’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai is equally supportive of her daughter from the days when the family lived in Swat in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Forotan says she wanted to become the first woman foreign minister of Afghanistan.

She was reading biographies of successful women politicians and researching ways to fulfil her dreams.

“Even in my sleep, I was dreaming about which university I would attend and where I would work,” she said.

Schools reopen

Afghanistan’s western province Herat borders Iran.

Iranian Press TV reported on Saturday that secondary and high schools in Herat have been reopened.

Some woman teachers even spoke to the Press TV.

The ban on Afghan girls to attend secondary schools is still in place in other provinces in Afghanistan.

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