Malala Yousufzai: Young Activist Attacked In Pakistan's Swat

by
staff
A 14-year-old rights activist who has campaigned for girls' education has been shot and injured in the Swat Valley in north-west Pakistan.

Malala Yousufzai

A 14-year-old rights activist who has campaigned for girls' education has been shot and injured in the Swat Valley in north-west Pakistan.

Malala Yousufzai was attacked on her way home from school in Mingora, the region's main town.

Nominated for an international peace award, she came to public attention in 2009 by writing a diary for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban.

Taliban militants overran Swat before being ejected by the army that year.

It is unclear if Malala was the target of the attack, but she has been threatened in the past.

She was travelling with at least one other girl when she was shot but there are differing accounts of how events unfolded.

One report, citing local sources, says a bearded gunman stopped a car full of schoolgirls, and asked for Malala by name, before opening fire.

But a police official also told BBC Urdu that unidentified gunmen opened fire on the schoolgirls as they were about to board a van or bus.

Initial reports say she was hit in the head or neck area but is now in hospital and out of danger. Another girl who was with Malala at the time was also injured.
'Courage'

Malala was just 11 years old when she was writing her diary, two years after the Taliban took over the Swat Valley, and ordered girls' schools to close.

In the diary, which she kept for the BBC's Urdu service under a pen name, she exposed the suffering caused by the militants as they ruled.

She used the pen-name Gul Makai when writing the diary. Her identity only emerged after the Taliban were driven out of Swat and she later won a national award for bravery and was also nominated for an international children's peace award.

Correspondents say she earned the admiration of many across Pakistan for her courage in speaking out about life under the brutal rule of Taliban militants.

One poignant entry reflects on the Taliban decree banning girls' education: "Since today was the last day of our school, we decided to play in the playground a bit longer. I am of the view that the school will one day reopen but while leaving I looked at the building as if I would not come here again."

She has since said that she wants to study law and enter politics when she grows up. "I dreamt of a country where education would prevail," she said.