Sunday, December 30, 2012

People of great courage

Are there still people of great courage in this world? Trudy Rubin has chosen a few to write about in a year-end column. There is Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting girls’ education.

I name her first because she stands for so many brave girls in Swat and other remote Pakistani and Afghan regions who risk their lives by insisting on their right to study. In case anyone needs reminding of the danger, consider this: According to recent British press reports, Malala called officials in Pakistan to urge them to reverse a decision to rename a college in her honor, in her hometown of Mingora. The reason? The girls at the college feared it would become a target for attack if it bore her name.

Of the many extraordinary Afghan women I’ve met, I’ll cite two, who both live in the city of Herat, near the border with Iran. Suraya Pakzad runs shelters for women abused by family or spouses (the only other alternatives for such women are prison or murder by their relatives), and Maria Bashir is the only provincial chief prosecutor in the country. Both receive frequent death threats, but they refuse to go into hiding. Pakzad was recently in Washington to ask U.S. officials not to trade away women’s rights in any talks with the Taliban. Will we let her down?

Finally, let me pay tribute to Alexei Navalny, a 30ish Russian blogger, anticorruption crusader and leader of Moscow’s middle-class opposition to Vladimir Putin’s autocracy. I met Navalny in Moscow in March, where he described how he trolls through documents leaked by disgruntled bureaucrats to reveal the mafia-like criminal behavior of the regime.

Navalny is fearless, even accusing Alexander Bastrykin, the head of Russia’s FBI-style Investigative Committee and a Putin buddy, of criminal property violations. But the regime has struck back, leveling ludicrous corruption charges against Navalny and his brother, a common tactic to silence dissidents. These kinds of charges can lead to long prison terms, or even murder, yet Navalny refuses to bow.

Read about more courageous people here:

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