16 October 2012
In Pakistan, two young women have recently become the target of violence and accusations of blasphemy, as retribution for speaking out about modernisation and education, or for simply belonging to a minority group, highlighting ongoing divisions in the country.
Malala Yousazai , a 15 year old girl, was attacked earlier this month for being an activist for the rights of children and education for girls.  Malala was shot in the head by a member of the Pakistani Taliban, for what a spokesman for the Taliban claimed as ‘obscenity’ and bringing secular and Western ideas to Pakistan. She has since been moved to a military hospital then to the UK, and while there are hopeful signs she remains in a critical condition. This incident has resulted in public outcry within and outside Pakistan, suggesting that violent and unjust acts may not be as acceptable as the perpetrators appear to believe. Avaaz has started a petition to support Malala and the right of Pakistani girls to receive an education.
The attack on Malala follows the 16 August arrest in Mahrabad, Pakistan, of a 14-year-old girl on a charge of blasphemy. Rimsha Masih spent two weeks in remand in an adult prison after her accuser said she had been carrying a bag of refuse which included burnt pages of the Koran. As blasphemy laws in Pakistan decree a life in prison for anyone who defiles the Koran, and require no evidence other than the word of the accuser, there is little hope for most who are accused. 
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