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Malala Yousafzai | The Girl Who Survived A Headshot And Stood Up To The Taliban

a photo of malala yousafzai in a red dress

Malala Yousafzai's Early Life

Malala was born on July 12, 1997, in Mingora, Pakistan. Mingora is one of the biggest cities in the region, is considered the gateway to the Swat Valley, and is a popular tourist destination. Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, had founded the girls' school Malala went to and was a strong advocate for girls' education.

Due to his influence, Yousafzai was passionate about knowledge from a very young age, and she would often waddle into her father’s classes before she could even talk.

a photo of Mingora, Pakistan in the Swat Valley in Pakistan

However, Malala’s home in the Swat Valley would change when the Taliban began exerting influence in the area and suicide bombings became more common. Girls were no longer allowed to watch TV, play music, or dance, and they weren’t allowed to go to school. By 2008, the Taliban had destroyed around 400 schools, and an eleven-year-old Malala decided to stand up to them.

Malala gave her first speech, "How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?" when her father took her to a press club to protest the school closings. She then began blogging for the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) when they reached out to her father looking for someone to write about life under the Taliban.

a photo of a journal entry Malala Yousafzai wrote for the BBC

She wrote anonymously under the name Gul Makai. Later, she made her first TV appearance, and the Taliban began to allow girls to go back to school after they faced backlash.

Malala Fights The Taliban

Unfortunately, in May 2009, Malala and her family were forced to evacuate the Swat Valley after tensions resumed. This didn’t deter her, and she met with important people and appeared in the news several times to advocate for girls' education. Because of her constant appearances, it became obvious she was the BBC’s anonymous blogger.

a photo of Malala Yousafzai filming with a camera

Her reveal led to her being nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize, and later that year she was awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize. She was becoming a popular advocate for girls but a hated enemy of the Taliban. The Taliban had begun to send death threats, and Malala was worried for her father. However, they believed that they wouldn’t actually harm a young girl and believed Malala would be fine.

Malala Yousafzai is Shot By The Taliban

On October 9, 2012, Malala was on the bus on her way to school, talking to her friends. Two men boarded the bus and asked, "Who is Malala?" Her friends all looked at Malala, giving away her position.

One of the men opened fire, and one of the bullets went into Malala’s head. She was only 15 years old. It was later discovered that the Taliban were behind it.

a photo of malala yousafzai being transported by helicopter after being shot

How Did Malala Yousafzai Survive A Headshot?

Malala managed to hang on and was airlifted to a nearby military hospital. After initial operations, she was flown to Birmingham, UK, to continue treatment. After days in a medically induced coma, a coma purposely caused by doctors to shut down body functions so surgery and recovery could take place, she was taken out. Although she still had to go through multiple surgeries and rehabilitation, she had suffered no permanent damage to her brain.

In March 2013, Malala was able to go to school in Birmingham. Her shooting led to massive support from the international community. Later that year, on her 16th birthday, July 12, she gave a speech for the first time since her shooting at the United Nations. She was awarded numerous awards for her efforts and was even named one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential People of 2013. She also published her autobiography that year, "I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban."

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Where’s Malala Yousafzai Today?