Pakistan's Malala: idol to the world, outcast at home

Fri Oct 10, 2014 11:57am EDT
 
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By Maria Golovnina

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Malala Yousafzai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, is hailed around the world as a champion of women's rights who stood up bravely against the Taliban to defend her beliefs.

But in her deeply conservative homeland, many view her with suspicion as an outcast or even as a Western creation aimed at damaging Pakistan's image abroad.

Malala, now aged 17, became globally known in 2012 when Taliban gunmen almost killed her for her passionate advocacy of women's right to education.

She has since become a symbol of defiance in the fight against militants operating in Pashtun tribal areas in northwest Pakistan - a region where women are expected to keep their opinions to themselves and stay at home.

"The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born," she told the United Nations last year.

"I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me. I would not shoot him," she said in a speech which captivated the world.

Malala has also won the European Union's human rights award and was one of the favorites to win the Nobel Prize last year.

Now based in Britain, she is unable to return to her homeland because of Taliban threats to kill her and her family members. The current Taliban chief, Mullah Fazlullah, was the one who ordered the 2012 attack against her.   Continued...

 
Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousafzai leaves after speaking at a news conference at the Zaatri refugee camp, in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria February 18, 2014. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed