The Taliban’s attempt to silence Malala Yousafzai a year ago today only ended up encouraging millions of other girls to speak up for their rights, the young Pakistani activist says.
“They wanted to silence one Malala, but instead now thousands and millions of Malalas are speaking,” the 16-year-old told Anna Maria Tremonti, the host of CBC Radio's The Current, in a Canadian exclusive interview airing today.
“They’re fighting for their rights.”
Malala, who was already an outspoken advocate for girls’ education, was critically injured on Oct. 9, 2012, when a gunman shot her while she was riding home on a school bus in the city of Mingora.
- Click here to listen to the full interview with Malala Yousafzai on The Current
- For more, including a photo gallery of Malala's life, see The Current's website
- Watch Malala comment on her nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize
- Six quotes from the Malala interview
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in Pakistan's volatile Swat Valley.
In a wide-ranging interview taped in New York City, Malala describes what her life was like before the shooting, the significant role her “great” and outspoken father has played in her life and how she hopes a foundation she was instrumental in setting up will encourage advocacy for education.
The young activist says she doesn’t recall the shooting itself — the story she recounts is based on what friends have told her.
Malala says two men in their 20s — she calls them “boys” — stopped the school vehicle and came on board.
"Then one of those boys were talking to … the driver in the front seat and one came at the back. And he asked: 'Who is Malala?'
"He didn’t give me time to answer him and then he shot me. He fired three bullets. One bullet hit me and the other two [bullets] hit my friends."
Malala says she "fell down" in her friend’s lap.
"The bullet hit me in the left side of my ... left eye," she says.
"And then that one bullet went down through my shoulder and then it came out of here through my left shoulder."
Days after the shooting, Malala was taken to Britain to receive specialized care and be kept safe from further attacks. She was released from Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham three months later.
“Now I’m feeling very well and I’m recovering every day,” Malala told Tremonti.
Malala’s account of her life ranges from the typical teenage pursuits of Canadian pop heart-throb Justin Bieber and the Twilight books to considering how things changed in the Swat Valley with the arrival of the Taliban.
“The worst thing was that they were against the education of girls,” she told Tremonti.
“In the month of January 2009, they said that no girl is allowed to go to school. And at that time I said, ‘Why should we be silent? Why don’t we speak up for our rights? Why don’t we tell the world what is happening in Swat.’ And I did not want Swat to be a next Afghanistan.”
At age 11, Malala started blogging under a pseudonym for the BBC about her love of learning and the Taliban oppression, especially that ban on educating girls in her area.
“The thing that I noticed in my life during that situation was that before the terrorism, I used to carry a heavy bag to school and I used to learn every day, but I did not know how important education is until we were stopped,” she told Tremonti.
“I realized that the terrorists are against education and especially girls’ education because they are afraid of it.”
Malala now lives in Britain with her family.
Pakistan appointed Malala's father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, as its education attaché in Birmingham, a position he will hold for at least three years.
Since the attack, Malala has earned worldwide recognition for her work. She addressed the United Nations Youth Assembly and the organization declared July 12, her birthday, Malala Day.
- Read Nahlah Ayed on the push for education by Malala's friends
Less than two months later, she received the International Children's Peace Prize from a Dutch children's rights organization.
An online petition seeking to nominate Malala for the Nobel Peace Prize, which will be announced Friday, gathered nearly 300,000 signatures.
"It is really a great honour for me that people said, 'Give it to Malala,' so that’s why I’m really happy to be nominated."
A look at the rail crossing earlier Tuesday morning as lights were flashing but the gates remained up.
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