When “Afghanistan’s Malala” walked painfully to the stage with the aid of a walker to collect her college diploma last month at the American University in Kabul, the entire audience gave her a standing ovation.
Breshna Musazai, 28, completed her law studies after she was shot twice in the leg by Taliban insurgents who are opposed to education for women.
Fellow grad and activist Sahra Fetrat praised Musazai as a “symbol of courage”:
Malala Yousafzai was just 15 when Taliban gunmen shot her in the head for speaking out in favor of education for girls. The young Pakistani woman and staunch activist for women and refugees survived the attack and won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.
Education was important to Musazai as well. Although she was originally from Afghanistan, Musazai attended high school and college in Pakistan. When the family returned to Afghanistan in 2011, she began her law studies at American University in Kabul, The Washington Post reported.
In 2016, Taliban fighters stormed the campus.
Musazai couldn’t escape because her right leg was crippled from polio. The insurgents then shot her twice in the left leg.
She played dead for hours, lying motionless on the floor until the authorities routed the gunmen. Thirteen people, including seven students, were killed in the attack.
After receiving medical attention in the U.S., Musazai returned to school in a wheelchair.
Although Afghanistan has one of the world’s highest illiteracy rates among females, more and more women are defying threats and opting to stay in school, per the Post. But the challenge is daunting. Eighty schools for girls were closed last week in eastern Nangarhar province after the Islamic State said it would attack them.
“When I was a disabled child, I always thought that I was nothing. Now when I see people who say they are inspired by me, I feel so strong,” Musazai told Women in the World early this month. “I want them to know that their support makes me want to do more. It also feels so good to see people using my story to support women’s education.”
Despite her own suffering, Musazai has a message for the insurgents.
“I want to tell [them] that they can try to kill as many of us as they can, but that doesn’t mean we will stop fighting them,” she said. “I am going to continue to work and struggle.”