17 Jul 2013

Exclusive: ‘Dear Malala… from the Taliban’

Special Correspondent and Presenter

Channel 4 News sees a copy of a letter sent to Malala Yousafzai from a senior Taliban commander berating her “smear campaign” against them – but expressing some remorse about the attack.

In the months and weeks after she was shot, 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai received cards and letters from well-wishers around the world. Many will talk of how she has inspired them and praise her courage.

Some will perhaps express their horror at hearing of her attack, including one letter written to her on Tuesday. It says “when you were attacked it was shocking for me, I wished it would never happened.”

But this is not a letter from a Malala fan. Bizarrely, it is written by a leader of the very group that claimed responsibility for her attack.

Channel 4 News has been sent a copy of a letter addressed to Malala, by Adnan Rasheed, a senior commander of the Tehriki Taliban (TTP) in Pakistan.

Like all letters these days, it comes with a disclaimer. Adnan Rasheed has confirmed to Channel4 News that he wrote the letter, but in his personal capacity.

It is a fascinating read, adopting a tone that is sometimes almost caring and yet other times threatening. It even addresses points made by Malala in her UN speech, just a few days ago.

Read the letter in full here or scroll to the bottom of the page

Why the Taliban attacked Malala

Adnan Rasheed begins by telling Malala he first heard about her from her diaries on the BBC Urdu service, while he himself was in prison. He says at the time he wanted to write to her to advise her against “anti-Taliban activities”, saying he felt “brotherly” emotions towards her as they belong to the “same Yousafzai tribe.”

At first, Rasheed seems to be expressing a sense of remorse over Malala’s attack, calling it an “accident” and even suggesting there is a debate over whether it was “correct or wrong” to attack her – but then adds it’s not an argument he wants to get in to.

Come back home, adopt the Islamic and pushtoon culture and join any female Islamic madressa. Adnan Rasheed, Taliban commander

But he then justifies both her shooting and Taliban attacks on schools. He tells Malala she wasn’t attacked for going to school or being an “education lover”, but because she was seen as “running a smearing campaign to malign their efforts,” even posing a question to her – saying: “There were thousands of girls who were going to school before and after the Taliban insurgency in Swat, would you explain why were only you on their hit list???”

‘Blowing up schools’

Rasheed carries on to explain why the Taliban is “blowing up schools.” He claims the Pakistani army have been using schools as hideouts and because of this, their “need to be eliminated” is a Taliban policy.

On the one hand, the letter is an audacious attempt to justify the shooting of a little girl. In places, it seems rambling, talking of a conspiracy – led by (you guessed it) “Jews” and “freemasons.” Yet the words also provide an insight into the motivations, ideology and even deep-rooted fears of the Taliban in Pakistan.

In his explanation for the Taliban’s actions, Adnan Rasheed references a British politician from the 1800s – Thomas Babington Macaulay. Macauley was famous for wanting to impose an English education system on colonial India, to replace local languages like Hindi, Arabic and Persian and create what he described as a “class of interpreters…Indian in colour, English in tastes,” who would help impose British colonial rule on India.

“Macaulay’s children” became a pejorative term, against those who were seen as being Anglicised or imposing Western ideas.

For the Taliban then, Malala is a modern day Macaulay’s child – a symbol of Western domination. They see what she describes as a fight for education as actually being a smokescreen for imposing “Western” rule on the region. The writer of the letter, Adnan Rasheed, believes Malala’s campaign is a weapon used against the region – amongst others which his letter also talks about – such as drones and polio vaccinations (he says they are sterilisation attempts).

‘Reveal the conspiracy’

The letter ends with advice to Malala – telling her to “come back home, adopt the Islamic and pushtoon culture and join any female Islamic madressa, use your pen…and reveal the conspiracy of the tiny elite who want to enslave the whole of humanity.” But with the ongoing threat from the Taliban, it’s unlikely Malala will be doing that any time soon.

With her courage and determination, Malala has endeared herself to millions. Her face on every television screen, her story in every paper, her words echoing around the world.

For many, a letter justifying her attack will be seen only as insulting and to be totally disregarded.

Speaking to Channel 4 News, the former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “The Taliban is on the defensive. If this letter is a genuine one, and I think it probably is, it shows that the millions of people who have been signing petitions and campaigning alongside Malala for girls education, are having an impact on them.

“Two million people after all, including a million children, have signed these petitions in Pakistan.”

But although the words in this letter, are of course at times offensive, perhaps by reading these explanations and motivations of the Taliban, those who seek to solve the deep rooted problems of Malala’s beloved hometown and region, can better understand them.

Letter From Taliban Commander Adnan Rasheed to Malala Yousafzai by Robert Mackey