Meet Neelam, The ‘Next Malala’ Working For Peace

Neelam Ibrar Chattan speaking at an International Women's Day event
Neelam Ibrar Chattan speaking at an International Women's Day event
Mudassar Shah

MINGORA â€" Neelam Ibrar Chattan makes breakfast for her mother and younger brother, serving them and rushing out the door without eating anything. As the young woman leaves, her mother Mariam Bibi recites Koranic versus in the hope of protecting her. Her husband died of heart attack about 12 years ago.

"I encouraged Neelam because it was her father's dream to be a social worker," Bibi says. "I want my daughter to play her role for the people of the area and also fulfill the dream of her father. I know people don't like her going out of the house and working in the community but I don't care. I trust my daughter."

She earns around $60 a month sewing cloths and gives half of that to her daughter to help buy drawing material for her workshops entitled, "Peace for a New Generation." The 21-year-old Neelam runs conflict-resolution workshops for children whose family members include Taliban militants fighting the government. She holds these sessions 15 times a month in different areas.

"I have seen children as young as 12 and 13 in my village join Taliban militants just so they can get some money or have guns so that other people are afraid of them," Neelam says. "I decided to work to save my generation from terrorism and educate them about peace."

Recognition for hard work

Last year, she was awarded the European Union-Paiman Trust Gold Award for her peace efforts. Twice a month she holds a meeting for women whose husbands have gone missing fighting the war between the Taliban and the government. Khalida, 42, rarely misses one of Neelam's workshops. She comes from a family that has traditionally supported the Taliban militants. Her husband joined the Taliban and never returned home.

"Neelam encouraged me to live a happy life and to sent my children in school and to keep my children away from the weapons and terrorism," she says.

After talking with the women Neelam leaves to go to another workshop. This time it's a drawing one for children on the outskirts of Mingora. The children don't get the opportunity in school to learn drawing and painting. Neelam sees creativity as a way of teaching children to "build" and "construct" rather than "destroy." Saad Ali, who is just 11, has drawn two scenes of his village using green and grey colored pencils.

"This is the place of peace where there is no terrorism and fighting, and here is a place where fighting has been and that is not so nice," he says of his art.

After last year's Peshawar school massacre, the government allowed teachers to carry guns. It's something Neelam regards as a big mistake. In June, a teenaged student was killed when his teacher accidently shot him as he was checking his gun.

"I request all parents and government officials to ban weapons in schools," says Sardar Ali, the grieving father. "I am afraid other children might die tomorrow like my son was killed. School is a place of learning and education, and we should not allow weapons there."

It's one of many battles Neelam is fighting to create a peaceful Swat Valley.

"Most people say that women can't do anything positive in our society," she says. "It encourages me to prove these people wrong since I work for the basic rights of children like the right of life and the right to education. I have reached over 500 children so far who are directly or indirectly affected by terrorism. At least, these families live a better life because of my efforts."

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Protests against gasoline price hikes in Lebanon

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Wai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where leaked documents show how some countries are lobbying to change a key report on climate change, Moscow announces new full lockdown and the world's first robot artist is arrested over spying allegations. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt looks at the rapprochement between two leaders currently at odds with Europe: UK's BoJo and Turkey's Erdogan.

[*Bodo - India, Nepal and Bengal]


• Documents reveal countries lobbying against climate action: Leaked documents have revealed that some of the world's biggest fossil fuel and meat producing countries, including Australia, Japan and Saudi Arabia, are trying to water down a UN scientific report on climate change and pushing back on its recommendations for action, less than one month before the COP26 climate summit.

• COVID update: The city of Moscow plans to reintroduce lockdown measures next week, closing nearly all shops, bars and restaurants, after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a nationwide seven-day workplace shutdown from Oct. 30 to combat the country's record surge in coronavirus cases and deaths. Meanwhile, India has crossed the 1 billion vaccinations milestone.

• India and Nepal floods death toll passes 180: Devastating floods in Nepal and the two Indian states of Uttarakhand and Kerala have killed at least 180 people, following record-breaking rainfall.

• Barbados elects first ever president: Governor general Dame Sandra Mason has been elected as Barbados' first president as the Caribbean island prepares to become a republic after voting to remove Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

• Trump to launch social media platform: After being banned from several social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter, former U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would launch his own app called TRUTH Social in a bid "to fight back against Big Tech." The app is scheduled for release early next year.

• Human remains found in hunt for Gabby Petito's fiance: Suspected human remains and items belonging to Brian Laundrie were found in a Florida park, more than one month after his disappearance. Laundrie was a person of interest in the murder of his fiancee Gabby Petito, who was found dead by strangulation last month.

• Artist robot detained in Egypt over spying fear: Ai-Da, the world's ultra-realistic robot artist, was detained for 10 days by authorities in Egypt where it was due to present its latest art works, over fears the robot was part of an espionage plot. Ai-Da was eventually cleared through customs, hours before the exhibition was due to start.


"Nine crimes and a tragedy," titles Brazilian daily Extra, after a report from Brazil's Senate concluded that President Jair Bolsonaro and his government had failed to act quickly to stop the deadly coronavirus pandemic, accusing them of crimes against humanity.


Erdogan and Boris Johnson: A new global power duo?

As Turkey fears the EU closing ranks over defense, Turkish President Erdogan is looking to Boris Johnson as a post-Brexit ally, especially as Angela Merkel steps aside. This could undermine the deal where Ankara limits refugee entry into Europe, and other dossiers too, write Carolina Drüten and Gregor Schwung in German daily Die Welt.

🇹🇷🇬🇧 According to the Elysée Palace, the French presidency "can't understand" why Turkey would overreact, since the defense pact that France recently signed in Paris with Greece is not aimed at Ankara. Although Paris denies this, it is difficult to see the agreement as anything other than a message, perhaps even a provocation, targeted at Turkey. The country has long felt left out in the cold, at odds with the European Union over a number of issues. Yet now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is setting his sights on another country, which also wants to become more independent from Europe: the UK.

⚠️ Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel always argued for closer collaboration with Turkey. She never supported French President Emmanuel Macron's ideas about greater strategic autonomy for countries within the EU. But now that she's leaving office, Macron is keen to make the most of the power vacuum Merkel will leave behind. The prospect of France's growing influence is "not especially good news for Turkey," says Ian Lesser, vice president of the think tank German Marshall Fund.

🤝 At the UN summit in September, Erdogan had a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the recently opened Turkish House in New York. Kalin says it was a "very good meeting" and that the two countries are "closely allied strategic partners." He says they plan to work together more closely on trade, but with a particular focus on defense. The groundwork for collaboration was already in place. Britain consistently supported Turkey's ambition to join the EU, and gave an ultimate proof of friendship after the failed coup in 2016.

➡️


"He has fought tirelessly against the corruption of Vladimir Putin's regime. This cost him his liberty and nearly his life."

— David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, wrote on Twitter, following the announcement that imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was awarded the 2021 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the European Union's highest tribute to human rights defenders. Navalny, who survived a poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin, is praised for his "immense personal bravery" in fighting Putin's regime. The European Parliament called for his immediate release from jail, as Russian authorities opened a new criminal case against the activist that could see him stay in jail for another decade.



Chinese video platform Youku is under fire after announcing it is launching a new variety show called in Mandarin Squid's Victory (Yóuyú de shènglì) on social media, through a poster that also bears striking similarities with the visual identity of Netflix's current South Korean hit series Squid Game. Youku apologized by saying it was just a "draft" poster.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Anyone want to guess Trump's first post on his upcoming social media platform...? Let us know how the news look in your corner of the world — drop us a note at!

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