A Moment in History
The audience rose in standing ovation and burst into applause as Breshna Musazai got up from her wheelchair and accepted her diploma in her cap and gown. While leaning on her brother’s arm she heard the cheers from behind her.
Modern Day Comeback Kid
In 2016, Musazai was shot in her leg and foot and left for dead by the Taliban. This event has been compared to as the ‘Malala of Afghanistan’. Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, pictured below, survived being shot by the Taliban at age 15 and quickly became a feminist symbol for young women across the globe.
Prior to the attack by the Taliban, Musazai was already paralyzed in her right leg due to polio and had a difficult time walking. She attended the American University in Kabul studying law in 2011 and in 2016, Taliban fighters invaded the campus. Since her leg was already disabled from polio, escape was not an option. The insurgents shot her twice in the unaffected leg and left her to die.
But Musazai was smart. She played dead for hours until the gunmen were gone and a police officer came to help. She survived with a broken leg and two missing toes. 13 people were killed that day. Musazai returned to school a year later in a wheelchair determined to graduate despite her physical disabilities.
Musazai’s family was in total support of her desire to get an education. “We wanted her to study so she would become independent in the future,” said her father, Saleh Mohammad Malang. In addition to her family, Musazai’s friends, classmates, professors, and thousands of people around the world were also in support.
In Afghanistan, 3.7 million children between the ages of 7-17 are not in school. Of those children, 60% of them are girls. Even in the areas when the government is in control, most girls don’t go to college after high school. About 80 girls’ schools closed because the Islamic State threatened to attack.
It’s not just the Taliban that is deterring females to pursue an education. Many of the conservative families pull their daughters from school once they hit puberty and set up arranged marriages instead. Still, more and more young adults are pursuing an education in Afghanistan despite cultural expectations.
The support that Musazai has received since the attack has been overwhelming. Despite everything she went through she came out even stronger and more determined. Her message to the insurgents is “They can try and kill as many of us as they can, but that doesn’t mean we will stop fighting them.”
During the commencement, people were uploading photos of Musazai and in a few hours, they went viral. Seeing the positive reaction from the world has pushed her to continue her education and inspire young woman to do the same. Musazai will receive more surgery on her toes in hopes that she will be able to walk again. Once she is able to walk she is going on to get her masters degree abroad.