Malala Yousafzai has become a household name in America in the past two years, and rightfully so. She has risen to fame as the face of gender inequality in Pakistan under the Taliban; and is now the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala is greeted by crowds of adoring fans at all of her public events, including heads of state and political figures. So what makes someone like Malala Yousafzai so popular, while someone like Nabila Rehman with such a similar story, remains relatively unknown?
Nabila Rehman, like Malala, is a young girl from a rural area in Pakistan. But unlike Malala, her enemy is not the Taliban or Islamic extremists, it is instead American drones. On October 24th, 2012, a predator drone flying over North Waziristan in Pakistan came upon eight year old Nabila and her family, which is a common occurrence in many rural Pakistani villages who are monitored by drones 24 hours a day. But this day would be different, as when it was over Nabila’s grandmother, Momina Bibi, was dead and seven children were injured. Last October, Nabila and her father traveled to Washington DC to speak at a congressional hearing in order to gain answers about the events that happened that day. But unlike Malala, who had spoken earlier that year, Nabila was greeted with just a few spectators; in fact only 5 out of 430 representatives showed up to hear her speak and the congressional hearing.
The west has used Malala and her plight as a type of propaganda to reinforce the idea of the west liberating the people from the region from their extremist government. Nabila and her family’s problems are not shared by the US, and are in fact contrary to the US’s plan, and could damage the image that the military wants to convey to the public. Because of this, her and her family were not given any media attention from the west. In fact, Malala herself has spoken out against terrorism and the use of drones, but the media never shows this side of her, instead focusing on her pro education ideas.
Although Nabila came to the US to speak a year ago, Malala receiving the Nobel Peace Prize (which she very much deserved in my opinion) made me wonder what had happened to Nabila. Unfortunately, since she and her family left the US in November of last year there has been no new news about them. But we do know that her and her family’s plea to end drone warfare have gone unheard.
This story is an important reminder that the US military will alter the portrayal of situations in order to gain support for their operations. While Malala is an extraordinary girl who has overcome extraordinary circumstances and should be considered a role model, the media has exploited her story in order to gain support for their actions in the region.