How Blaming the West Hides a War on Women

The targeting of Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old girl shot nearly two weeks ago by a Pakistani Taliban assassin, brought back memories of my teenage years in Tehran, where theocratic zealots were similarly in control. The words of the Taliban’s chief spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, had a chillingly familiar echo in my ears. A bullet had Malala’s name on it, he explained to the news media, because “she has become a symbol of Western culture in the area; she was openly propagating it.” He also called her “the symbol of the infidels and obscenity.”

The zealots of my era, circa 1982, prowled Tehran’s streets in khaki-colored Toyota SUVs and stopped girls and women of all stripes, ages and ethnicities, warning them if their scarves had slipped back. On good days, rather than arrest and haul us away, they would only scold: “Our men are being martyred by Saddam to protect your virtue.”

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