Malala Yousafzai Biography
Malala Yousafzai born 12th July, 1997 is a Pakistani school pupil and education activist from the Town of Mingora in the Swat District of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. She is known for her education and women’s rights activism in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school.
In early 2009, at the age of 11 – 12, Yousafzai wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC detailing her life under Taliban rule, their attempts to take control of the valley, and her views on promoting education for girls.
Yousafzai rose in prominence, giving interviews in print and on television, and she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by South African activist Desmond Tutu.
Yousafzai on 9th October, 2012 was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen while returning home on a school bus. In the days immediately following the attack, she remained unconscious and in critical condition, but later her condition improved enough for her to be sent to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, United Kingdom for intensive rehabilitation.
On 12th October, 2012, a group of 50 Islamic clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwā against those who tried to kill her, but the Taliban reiterated its intent to kill Yousafzai and her father.
Early life of Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai was born into a Sunni Muslim family of Pashtun ethnicity in July, 1997 and given her first name, Malala, meaning “grief stricken”, after Malalai of Maiwand, a Pashtun poetess and warrior woman. Her last name, Yousafzai, is that of a large Pashtun tribal confederation that is predominant in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, where she grew up. At her house in Mingora, she lived with her two younger brothers, her parents, and two pet chickens.
Yousafzai was educated in large part by her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who is a poet, school owner, and an educational activist himself, running a chain of schools known as the Khushal Public School. She once stated to an interviewer that she would like to become a doctor, though later her father encouraged her to become a politician instead. Ziauddin referred to his daughter as something entirely special, permitting her to stay up at night and talk about politics after her two brothers had been sent to bed.
Yousafzai started speaking about education rights as early as September 2008, when her father took her to Peshawar to speak at the local press club. “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” Yousafzai asked her audience in a speech covered by newspapers and television channels throughout the region.
Malala Yousafzai as BBC Blogger
At the beginning of 2009, Yousafzai had a chance to write for BBC Urdu when her father was asked by Abdul Hai Kakkar, a BBC reporter out of Pakistan, if any women at his school would write about life under the Taliban. At the time, Taliban militants led by Maulana Fazlullah were taking over the Swat Valley, banning television, music, girls education, and women from going shopping. Bodies of beheaded policemen were being hung in town squares. At first, a girl named Aisha from her father’s school agreed to write a diary, but then the girl’s parents stopped her from doing it because they feared Taliban reprisals. The only alternative was Yousafzai, four years younger than the original volunteer, and in seventh grade at the time. Editors at the BBC unanimously agreed.
I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taleban. I have had such dreams since the launch of the military operation in Swat. My mother made me breakfast and I went off to school. I was afraid going to school because the Taleban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools.
Only 11 pupils attended the class out of 27. The number decreased because of Taleban’s edict. My three friends have shifted to Peshawar, Lahore and Rawalpindi with their families after this edict.
Malala Yousafzai, 3rd January, 2009 BBC Blog Entry
“We had been covering the violence and politics in Swat in detail but we didn’t know much about how ordinary people lived under the Taliban,” Mirza Waheed, the former editor of BBC Urdu, said. Because they were concerned about Yousafzai’s safety, BBC editors insisted that she use a pseudonym. Her blog was published under the byline “Gul Makai” ( “corn flower” in Urdu ), a name taken from a character in a Pashtun folktale.
Malala Yousafzai Banned from School
After the ban, the Taliban continued to destroy schools in the area. Five days later in her blog, Yousafzai wrote that she was still studying for her examsv: “Our annual exams are due after the vacations but this will only be possible if the Taliban allow girls to go to school. We were told to prepare certain chapters for the exam but I do not feel like studying.”
It seems that it is only when dozens of schools have been destroyed and hundreds others closed down that the army thinks about protecting them. Had they conducted their operations here properly, this situation would not have arisen.
Malala Yousafzai 24th January, 2009 BBC Blog Entry
In February 2009, girls schools were still closed. In solidarity, private schools for boys had decided not to open until 9th February, and notices appeared saying so. On 7th February, Yousafzai and a brother returned to their hometown of Mingora, where the streets were deserted, and there was an “eerie silence”. “We went to supermarket to buy a gift for our mother but it was closed, whereas earlier it used to remain open till late. Many other shops were also closed”, she wrote in her blog. Their home was burgled and their television stolen.
After boys’ schools reopened, the Taliban lifted restrictions on girls’ primary education, where there was co – education. Girls – only schools were still closed. Yousafzai wrote that only 70 pupils attended, out of 700 pupils who were enrolled.
Girls Schools Reopen
On 25th February, 2012, Yousafzai wrote on her blog that she and her classmates “played a lot in class and enjoyed ourselves like we used to before”. Attendance at Yousafzai’s class was up to 19 of 27 pupils by 1st March, but the Taliban were still active in the area. Shelling continued, and relief goods meant for displaced people were looted. Only two days later, Yousafzai wrote that there was a skirmish between the military and Taliban, and the sounds of mortar shells could be heard: “People are again scared that the peace may not last for long. Some people are saying that the peace agreement is not permanent, it is just a break in fighting”.
On 9th March, 2012, Yousafzai wrote about a science paper that she performed well on, and added that the Taliban were no longer searching vehicles as they once did. Her blog ended on 12th March, 2009.
Malala Yousafzai Political Career and Activism
Yousafzai was interviewed on the national Pashto – language station AVT Khyber, the Urdu – language Aaj Daily, and Canada’s Toronto Star. She made a second appearance on Capital Talk on 19th August, 2009. Her BBC blogging identity was being revealed in articles by December, 2009. She also began appearing on television to publicly advocate for female education.
In October 2011, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a South African activist, nominated Yousafzai for the International Children’s Peace Prize of the Dutch international children’s advocacy group KidsRights Foundation. She was the first Pakistani girl to be nominated for the award. The announcement said, “Malala dared to stand up for herself and other girls and used national and international media to let the world know girls should also have the right to go to school”. The award was won by Michaela Mycroft of South Africa.
Her public profile rose even further when she was awarded Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize two months later in December. On 19 December, 2011, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani awarded her the National Peace Award for Youth. At the proceedings in her honor, Yousafzai stated that she was not a member of any political party, but hoped to found a national party of her own to promote education. The prime minister directed the authorities to set up an IT campus in the Swat Degree College for Women at Yousafzai’s request, and a secondary school was renamed in her honor. By 2012, Yousafzai was planning to organize the Malala Education Foundation, which would help poor girls go to school.
Malala Yousafzai Assassination Attempt
As Yousafzai became more recognized, the dangers facing her became more acute. Death threats against her were published in newspapers and slipped under her door. On Facebook, where she was an active user, she began to receive threats and fake profiles were created under her name. When none of this worked, a Taliban spokesman says they were “forced” to act. In a meeting held in the summer of 2012, Taliban leaders unanimously agreed to kill her.
On 9th October, 2012 a Taliban gunman shot Yousafzai as she rode home on a bus after taking an exam in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. The masked gunman shouted “Which one of you is Malala? Speak up, otherwise I will shoot you all”, and, on her being identified, shot at her. She was hit with one bullet, which went through her head, neck, and ended in her shoulder. Two other girls were also wounded in the shooting : Kainat Riaz and Shazia Ramzan, both of whom were stable enough to speak to reporters and provide details of the attack.
Medical treatment for Malala Yousafzai
After the shooting, Yousafzai was airlifted to a military hospital in Peshawar, where doctors were forced to begin operating after swelling developed in the left portion of her brain, which had been damaged by the bullet when it passed through her head. After a three – hour operation, doctors successfully removed the bullet, which had lodged in her shoulder near her spinal cord. The day following the attack, doctors performed a decompressive craniectomy, in which part of the skull is removed to allow room for the brain to swell.
On 11th October, 2012 a panel of Pakistani and British doctors decided to move Yousafzai to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology in Rawalpindi. Mumtaz Khan, a doctor, said that she had a 70% chance of survival. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that Yousafzai would be shifted to Germany, where she could receive the best medical treatment, as soon as she was stable enough to travel. A team of doctors would travel with her, and the government would bear the expenditures of her treatment. Doctors reduced Yousafzai’s sedation on 13th October, 2012 and she moved all four limbs.
Announcement of Malala Day
On 12th July, 2013 Yousafzai’s 16th birthday, she spoke at the UN to call for worldwide access to education. The UN dubbed the event “Malala Day”. It was her first public speech since the attack.
“The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born… I am not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I’m here to speak up for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists.”
Yousafzai received several standing ovations. Ban Ki – moon, who also spoke at the session, described her as “our hero”.
The Pakistani government did not comment on Yousafzai’s UN appearance, amid a backlash against her in Pakistan’s press and social media. Dawn columnist Huma Yusuf summarized three main complaints of Yousafzai’s critics: “Her fame highlights Pakistan’s most negative aspect ( rampant militancy ); her education campaign echoes Western agendas; and the West’s admiration of her is hypocritical because it overlooks the plight of other innocent victims, like the casualties of U.S. drone strikes.” Journalist Assed Baig described her as being used to justify Western imperialism as “the perfect candidate for the white man to relieve his burden and save the native”. Yousafzai was also accused on social media of being a prostitute and a CIA spy.
Awards and Honors for Malala Yousafzai
Yousafzai has won the following national and international honors :
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