|Native name||ملاله یوسفزۍ|
|Born||12 July 1997 |
Mingora, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,Pakistan
|Residence||Birmingham, England, UK|
|Occupation||Blogger, activist for rights to education and for women|
|Known for||Activism, Taliban assassination attempt|
|Relatives||Ziauddin Yousafzai (father)|
|Awards||Honorary Canadian citizenship|
National Youth Peace Prize
Simone de Beauvoir Prize
Malala Yousafzai (Pashto: ملاله یوسفزۍ [mə ˈlaː lə . ju səf ˈzəj]; Urdu: ملالہ یوسف زئی Malālah Yūsafzay, born 12 July 1997) is a Pakistani school pupil and education activist from the town of Mingora in the Swat District of Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwaprovince. She is known for her activism for rights to education and for women, especially 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 BBCdetailing her life under Taliban rule, their attempts to take control of the valley, and her views on promoting education for girls. The following summer, a New York Timesdocumentary was filmed about her life as the Pakistani military intervened in the region, culminating in the Second Battle of Swat. 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.
On 9 October 2012, Yousafzai 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 inBirmingham, England, for intensive rehabilitation. On 12 October, 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.
The assassination attempt sparked a national and international outpouring of support for Yousafzai. Deutsche Welle wrote in January 2013 that Yousafzai may have become "the most famous teenager in the world." United Nations Special Envoy for Global EducationGordon Brown launched a UN petition in Yousafzai's name, using the slogan "I am Malala" and demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015 – a petition which helped lead to the ratification of Pakistan's first Right to Education Bill. In the 29 April 2013 issue of Time magazine, Yousafzai was featured on the magazine's front cover and as one of "The 100 Most Influential People in the World". She was the winner of Pakistan's first National Youth Peace Prize and was nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize (although Yousafzai was widely tipped to win the prize, it was awarded to theOrganisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons). On 12 July 2013, Yousafzai spoke at the UN to call for worldwide access to education, and in September 2013 she officially opened the Library of Birmingham.Yousafzai is the recipient of the Sakharov Prize for 2013. On October 16, 2013, the Government of Canada announced its intention that the Parliament of Canada confer Honorary Canadian citizenship upon Yousafzai.
Yousafzai was born on 12 July 1997 into a Sunni Muslim family of Pashtun ethnicity. She was given her first name Malala (meaning "grief stricken") after Malalai of Maiwand, a famous Pashtun poet and warrior woman from southern Afghanistan. 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 activisthimself, 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.
In late 2008, when Aamer Ahmed Khan of the BBC Urdu website and his colleagues had discussed a novel way of covering theTaliban’s growing influence in Swat: Why not find a schoolgirl to blog anonymously about her life there? Their correspondent inPeshawar, Abdul Hai Kakar, had been in touch with a local school teacher, Ziauddin Yousafzai, but couldn’t find any students willing to do it. It was too dangerous, their families said. Finally, Yousafzai suggested his own daughter, 11-year-old Malala. 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.
"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" ("cornflower" in Urdu), a name taken from a character in a Pashtun folktale.
On 3 January 2009, Yousafzai's first entry was posted to the BBC Urdu blog. She would hand-write notes and then pass them on to a reporter who would scan and e-mail them. The blog records Yousafzai's thoughts during the First Battle of Swat, as military operations take place, fewer girls show up to school, and finally, her school shuts down.
In Mingora, the Taliban had set an edict that no girls could attend school after 15 January 2009. The group had already blown up more than a hundred girls’ schools. The night before the ban took effect was filled with the noise of artillery fire, waking Yousafzai multiple times. The following day, Yousafzai also read for the first time excerpts from her blog that had been published in a local newspaper.
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 exams: "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."
In February 2009, girls' schools were still closed. In solidarity, private schools for boys had decided not to open until 9 February, and notices appeared saying so. On 7 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 was 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.
On 15 February, gunshots could be heard in the streets of Mingora, but Yousafzai's father reassured her, saying "don't be scared – this is firing for peace". Her father had read in the newspaper that the government and the militants were going to sign a peace deal the next day. Later that night, when the Taliban announced the peace deal on their FM Radio studio, another round of stronger firing started outside. Yousafzai spoke out against the Taliban on the national current affairs show Capital Talk on 18 February. Three days later, local Taliban leader Maulana Fazlulla announced on his FM radio station that he was lifting the ban on women's education, and girls would be allowed to attend school until exams were held on 17 March, but they had to wear burqas.
Girls' schools reopen
On 25 February, 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 1 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 9 March, 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 12 March 2009.
After the BBC diary ended, Yousafzai and her father were approached by New York Times reporter Adam B. Ellick about filming a documentary. In May, the Pakistani Army moved into the region to regain control during the Second Battle of Swat. Mingora was evacuated and Yousafzai's family was displaced and separated. Her father went to Peshawar to protest and lobby for support, while she was sent into the countryside to live with relatives. "I'm really bored because I have no books to read," Yousafzai is filmed saying in the documentary.
That month, after criticizing militants at a press conference, Yousafzai's father received a death threat over the radio by a Taliban commander. Yousafzai was deeply inspired in her activism by her father. That summer, for the first time, she committed to becoming a politician and not a doctor, as she had once aspired to be.
By early July, refugee camps were filled to capacity. The prime minister made a long-awaited announcement saying that it was safe to return to the Swat Valley. The Pakistani military had pushed the Taliban out of the cities and into the countryside. Yousafzai's family reunited, and on 24 July 2009 they headed home. They made one stop first – to meet with a group of other grassroots activists that had been invited to see United States President Barack Obama's special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke. Yousafzai pleaded with Holbrooke to intervene in the situation, saying, "Respected ambassador, if you can help us in our education, so please help us." When her family finally did return home, they found it had not been damaged, and her school had sustained only light damage.
Early political career and activism
Following the documentary, 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 19 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 Prizeof 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.
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 9 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.
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 11 October 2012, a panel of Pakistani and British doctors decided to move Yousafzai to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology inRawalpindi. 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 13 October, and she moved all four limbs.
Offers to treat Yousafzai came from around the world. On 15 October, Yousafzai traveled to the United Kingdom for further treatment, approved by both her doctors and family. Her plane landed in Dubai to refuel and then continued to Birmingham, where she was treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, one of the specialties of this hospital being the treatment of military personnel injured in conflict.
Yousafzai had come out of her coma by 17 October 2012, was responding well to treatment, and was said to have a good chance of fully recovering without any brain damage. Later updates on 20 and 21 October stated that she was stable, but was still battling an infection. By 8 November, she was photographed sitting up in bed.
On 3 January 2013, Yousafzai was discharged from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham to continue her rehabilitation at her family's temporary home in the West Midlands. She had a five-hour operation on 2 February to reconstruct her skull and restore her hearing, and was reported in stable condition.
The assassination attempt received worldwide media coverage and produced an outpouring of sympathy and anger. Protests against the shooting were held in several Pakistani cities the day after the attack, and over 2 million people signed the Right to Education campaign's petition, which led to ratification of the first Right to Education Bill in Pakistan. Pakistani officials offered a 10 million rupee (US$105,000) reward for information leading to the arrest of the attackers. Responding to concerns about his safety, Yousafzai's father said, "We wouldn't leave our country if my daughter survives or not. We have an ideology that advocates peace. The Taliban cannot stop all independent voices through the force of bullets."
Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari described the shooting as an attack on "civilized people". UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it a "heinous and cowardly act". U.S. President Barack Obama found the attack "reprehensible, disgusting and tragic", while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Yousafzai had been "very brave in standing up for the rights of girls" and that the attackers had been "threatened by that kind of empowerment". British Foreign Secretary William Hague called the shooting "barbaric" and that it had "shocked Pakistan and the world".
The American singer Madonna dedicated her song "Human Nature" to Yousafzai at a concert in Los Angeles the day of the attack.American actress Angelina Jolie wrote an article about explaining the event to her children and answering questions like "Why did those men think they needed to kill Malala?" Jolie later donated $200,000 to The Malala Fund for girls education. Former First Lady of the United States Laura Bush wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post in which she compared Yousafzai to Holocaust diaristAnne Frank. Indian director Amjad Khan announced that he would be making a biographical film based on Malala Yousafzai.
Ehsanullah Ehsan, chief spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that Yousafzai "is the symbol of the infidels and obscenity," adding that if she survived, the group would target her again. In the days following the attack, the Taliban reiterated its justification, saying Yousafzai had been brainwashed by her father: "We warned him several times to stop his daughter from using dirty language against us, but he didn't listen and forced us to take this extreme step". The Taliban also justified its attack as part of religious scripture, stating that the Quran "says that people propagating against Islam and Islamic forces would be killed", going on to say that "Sharia says that even a child can be killed if he is propagating against Islam".
On 12 October 2012, a group of 50 Islamic clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwā – a ruling of Islamic law – against the Taliban gunmen who tried to kill Yousafzai. Islamic scholars from the Sunni Ittehad Council publicly denounced attempts by the Pakistani Taliban to mount religious justifications for the shooting of Yousafzai and two of her classmates.
Although the attack was roundly condemned in Pakistan, "some fringe Pakistani political parties and extremist outfits" have aired conspiracy theories, such as the shooting being staged by the American Central Intelligence Agency in order to provide an excuse forcontinuing drone attacks. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and some other pro-Taliban elements branded Yousafzai as an "American spy".
United Nations petition
On 15 October 2012, UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, a former British Prime Minister, visited Yousafzai while she was in the hospital, and launched a petition in her name and "in support of what Malala fought for". Using the slogan "I am Malala", the petition's main demand was that there be no children left out of school by 2015, with the hope that "girls like Malala everywhere will soon be going to school". Brown said he would hand the petition to President Zardari in Islamabad in November.
The petition contains three demands:
- We call on Pakistan to agree to a plan to deliver education for every child.
- We call on all countries to outlaw discrimination against girls.
- We call on international organizations to ensure the world's 61 million out-of-school children are in education by the end of 2015.
The day after the shooting, Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik stated that the Taliban gunman who shot Yousafzai had been identified. Police named 23-year-old Atta Ullah Khan, a graduate student in chemistry, as the gunman in the attack. As of July 2013 he remains at large.
The police also arrested six men for involvement in the attack, but they were later released for lack of evidence. As of 7 November 2012, Mullah Fazlullah, the cleric who ordered the attack on Yousafzai, was confirmed to be hiding in Eastern Afghanistan by US sources there.
Continuing political career
Yousafzai spoke before the United Nations in July 2013, and met with Queen Elizabeth II in Buckingham Palace. In September she spoke at Harvard University, and in October met with U.S. President Barack Obama and his family; during that meeting, she confronted him on his use of drone strikes in Pakistan.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was the first to sign a petition requesting that Yousafzai receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown arranged for Yousafzai's appearance before the United Nations in July 2013. Brown also requested that McKinsey consultant Shiza Shahid, a friend of the Yousafzai family, chair Malala's charity fund, which had gained the support of Angelina Jolie. Google's vice president Megan Smith also sits on the fund's board.
In November 2012 the consulting firm Edelman began work for Yousafzai on a pro bono basis, which according to the firm "involves providing a press office function for Malala." The office employs five people, and is headed by speechwriter Jamie Lundie.McKinsey also continues to provide assistance to Yousafzai.
On 12 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, leading the first ever Youth Takeover of the UN, with an audience of over 500 young education advocates from around the world.
"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". Yousafzai also presented the chamber with "The Education We Want", a Youth Resolution of education demands written by Youth for Youth, in a process co-ordinated by the UN Global Education First Youth Advocacy Group, telling her audience:
"Malala day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights."
The Pakistani government did not comment on Yousafzai's UN appearance, amid a backlash against her in Pakistan's press and social media.
Reception in Pakistan
Reception at home has been somewhat more mixed. 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 CIA spy.
Awards and honours
Yousafzai has been awarded the following national and international honours:
- International Children's Peace Prize nominee, 2011
- National Youth Peace Prize, 2011
- Sitara-e-Shujaat, Pakistan's third-highest civilian bravery award, October 2012
- Foreign Policy magazine top 100 global thinker, November 2012
- Time magazine Person of the Year shortlist, December 2012
- Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice, November 2012[a]
- Rome Prize for Peace and Humanitarian Action, December 2012
- Top Name of 2012 in Annual Survey of Global English, January 2013
- Simone de Beauvoir Prize, January 2013
- Nobel Peace Prize nominee, March 2013
- Doughty Street Advocacy award of Index on Censorship, March 2013
- Fred and Anne Jarvis Award of the UK National Union of Teachers, March 2013
- Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards, Global Trailblazer, April 2013
- One of Time's "100 Most Influential People In The World", April 2013
- Premi Internacional Catalunya Award of Catalonia, May 2013
- Annual Award for Development of the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), June 2013
- International Campaigner of the Year, 2013 Observer Ethical Awards, June 2013
- 2012 Tipperary International Peace Award, Ireland Tipperary Peace Convention, August 2013
- International Children’s Peace Prize, KidsRights, 2013
- Portrait of Yousafzai by Jonathan Yeo displayed at National Portrait Gallery, London
- Ambassador of Conscience Award from Amnesty International
- 2013 Clinton Global Citizen Awards from Clinton Foundation
- Harvard Foundation’s Peter Gomes Humanitarian Award from Harvard University
- 2013 Anna Politkovskaya Award – Reach All Women In War
- 2013 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought – Awarded by the European Parliament
- 2013 Edinburgh University granted Malala an honorary Master of Arts degree