Malala and Beyond: 5 Incredibly Brave Global Youth Activists You Should Know

The heinous shooting of 14-year-old protest blogger Malala Yousafzai has made the international news this month, and for good reason: the attack upon her serves as a stark symbol of the retrograde attitudes of the Taliban towards women’s education. That she appears to be making a recovery is not far short of a miracle.

But she isn’t the only precocious political activist out there–a group that’s feeling especially unsafe in the wake of the Taliban’s brutal attack on an outspoken fourteen-year-old.

Here’s a few other young people who have demonstrated remarkable courage in the face of violence and oppression, and have, sadly, paid the price for that bravery.

1. Tal al-Molouhi

Syrian high-school student Tal al-Molouhi wrote articles and poems decrying the sad state of political affairs in Syria, and her support for the plight of the Palestinians. Unfortunately, the outspoken young woman paid for her eloquence: she was imprisoned in 2009 by Syrian authorities, who confiscated her computer and refused to tell her family where she had been taken.

Her mother’s direct pleas to Syrian President Bashir-al-Assad to release her daughter fell on deaf ears.

Molouhi—still alive, despite rumors that she had been tortured to death in detention—was sentenced to five years in jail in early 2011 for “revealing information to a foreign country,” says Reuters. Syrian authorities apparently suspected the teenager had been working as a spy for the United States, a claim the USA vigorously denied. 

I could find no information on where Molouhi is now, although it’s safe to assume that her future is very much in doubt as the Syrian civil war continues to rage on.

2. Zaur Gurbanli 

Azerbaijan’s government doesn’t exactly suffer opposition gladly, and 25-year-old  blogger and youth activist Zaur Gurbanli is paying for his willingness to defy authority.

Gurbanli was arrested and detained on September 29th by Azerbaijani authorities, and was swiftly given 15 days in jail, on charges of resisting police.

He’s currently being held in the unit the government usually reserves for those involved in organized crime, a suspect choice that officials have, unsurprisingly, clammed up about. Sadly, it’s quite likely more charges will be conjured up against the young blogger. 

Gurbanli is perhaps best known for his involvement in the Sing for Democracy campaign, a political movement aimed at bringing attention to human rights abuses in Azerbaijan during the wildly popular Eurovision Contest.

3. Jigme Dolma

Seventeen-year-old Tibetan Jigme Dolma distributed fliers that criticized China’s iron rule over Tibet—and has been sentenced to three years in jail for her dissent.

Dolma allegedly threw the controversial fliers in the air while shouting pro-Tibet slogans in June, in the Sichuan town of Kardze. She was quickly apprehended by Chinese police, who beat her badly. 

Only allowed to see her parents once, Dolma has been in jail ever since, and was officially sentenced in August. Radio Free Asia reports that Dolma comes from a family known for its protest against Chinese rule, indicating that Dolma’s harsh sentence is likely a calculated attempt to silence multiple dissenting voices.

4. Police beatings of teenagers in Madrid

Spain may not harbor a repressive regime along the lines of Syria or China, but as September footage revealed, the financially-strapped European nation has some real issues with police brutality.

A late September protest by Spaniards calling for the resignation of the government outside Parliament got violent, causing 28 injuries, two of which were inflicted on police officers.

Riot police reacted aggressively to volleys of rocks and bottles from protesters,  firing rubber bullets into the crowd and indiscriminately beating civilians—including a number of teenage boys and girls who were allegedly not involved with the violence.

The violence was videotaped and posted on Youtube: evidence that youth isn’t protection against systematic brutality.

5. Tarek Mameri

Twenty-three year old blogger Tarek Mameria decided to call for a boycott against May 10 legislative elections, in which the ruling National Liberation Party was almost certainly slated to win—just like it always does.

Mameria proceeded to post videos on his blog imploring other Algerians to boycott the elections, as well as burning registration card and destroying electoral placards. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Algerian authorities took a very dim view of his behavior, arresting him on May 2 of this year for “destroying property, setting administrative documents on fire and inciting public gatherings,” according to AFP.

For his pains, Mameria was given an 8 month long suspended prison sentence and a $1,250 fine, in an act that surely will send a message to other outspoken Algerian youth: shut up, and quickly.

Mameria fervently denies any wrong-doing, and pointed out that it was better he set documents on fire than his own person, referencing the climactic self-immolation of Tunisian fruit seller Mohamed Bouazizi.