Malala Yousafzai's journey from Pakistani schoolgirl to peace symbol

Fri Oct 10, 2014 7:31am EDT
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By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Malala Yousafzai's journey from Pakistani schoolgirl to Nobel Peace Prize winner has entranced the world as the teenager emerged defiant after a near-fatal attack by the Taliban to fight for girls' rights.

Two years ago, Yousafzai was traveling home from school in Mingora in the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan when Taliban gunmen boarded her school bus and shot the 15-year-old in the head at point-blank range.

The attack was a punishment for her public campaigning from the age of 11 for the right for girls to go to school, using a blog and then media appearances to defy the militant Islamic group's ban on female education and bombing of schools.

Yousafzai, now 17, and her father Ziauddin Yousafzai, a school principal and education activist, had become well-known in Pakistan for their campaign and refused to be silenced despite repeated threats from the Taliban.

Fighting for her life, Yousafzai was treated in Pakistan before the United Arab Emirates provided an air ambulance to fly her to Britain where doctors repaired her skull with a titanium plate and operated to help restore lost hearing.

Following a remarkable recovery, she was unable to return to Pakistan due to continuing Taliban threats so set up a new life with her parents and two younger brothers in Birmingham in central England.

But perhaps more miraculous than her recovery is the journey that has seen her emerge from being the victim of a failed murder attempt to a global figurehead for peaceful protest and for the right of every child to go to school.