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I Am Malala, page 1

 

I Am Malala
 



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I Am Malala


  I Am Malala

  Malala Yousafzai

  Christina Lamb

  When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

  On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.

  Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.

  I AM MALALA is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

  I AM MALALA will make you believe in the power of one person’s voice to inspire change in the world.

  I AM MALALA

  The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban

  Malala Yousafzai

  with Christina Lamb

  To all the girls who have faced injustice and been silenced.

  Together we will be heard.

  Map

  Prologue: The Day my World Changed

  I COME FROM a country which was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday.

  One year ago I left my home for school and never returned. I was shot by a Taliban bullet and was flown out of Pakistan unconscious. Some people say I will never return home but I believe firmly in my heart that I will. To be torn from the country that you love is not something to wish on anyone.

  Now, every morning when I open my eyes, I long to see my old room full of my things, my clothes all over the floor and my school prizes on the shelves. Instead I am in a country which is five hours behind my beloved homeland Pakistan and my home in the Swat Valley. But my country is centuries behind this one. Here there is any convenience you can imagine. Water running from every tap, hot or cold as you wish; lights at the flick of a switch, day and night, no need for oil lamps; ovens to cook on that don’t need anyone to go and fetch gas cylinders from the bazaar. Here everything is so modern one can even find food ready cooked in packets.

  When I stand in front of my window and look out, I see tall buildings, long roads full of vehicles moving in orderly lines, neat green hedges and lawns, and tidy pavements to walk on. I close my eyes and for a moment I am back in my valley – the high snow-topped mountains, green waving fields and fresh blue rivers – and my heart smiles when it looks at the people of Swat. My mind transports me back to my school and there I am reunited with my friends and teachers. I meet my best friend Moniba and we sit together, talking and joking as if I had never left.

  Then I remember I am in Birmingham, England.

  The day when everything changed was Tuesday, 9 October 2012. It wasn’t the best of days to start with as it was the middle of school exams, though as a bookish girl I didn’t mind them as much as some of my classmates.

  That morning we arrived in the narrow mud lane off Haji Baba Road in our usual procession of brightly painted rickshaws, sputtering diesel fumes, each one crammed with five or six girls. Since the time of the Taliban our school has had no sign and the ornamented brass door in a white wall across from the woodcutter’s yard gives no hint of what lies beyond.

  For us girls that doorway was like a magical entrance to our own special world. As we skipped through, we cast off our head-scarves like winds puffing away clouds to make way for the sun then ran helter-skelter up the steps. At the top of the steps was an open courtyard with doors to all the classrooms. We dumped our backpacks in our rooms then gathered for morning assembly under the sky, our backs to the mountains as we stood to attention. One girl commanded, ‘Assaan bash! ’ or ‘Stand at ease!’ and we clicked our heels and responded, ‘Allah.’ Then she said, ‘Hoo she yar!’ or ‘Attention!’ and we clicked our heels again. ‘Allah.’

  The school was founded by my father before I was born, and on the wall above us KHUSHAL SCHOOL was painted proudly in red and white letters. We went to school six mornings a week and as a fifteen-year-old in Year 9 my classes were spent chanting chemical equations or studying Urdu grammar; writing stories in English with morals like ‘Haste makes waste’ or drawing diagrams of blood circulation – most of my classmates wanted to be doctors. It’s hard to imagine that anyone would see that as a threat. Yet, outside the door to the school lay not only the noise and craziness of Mingora, the main city of Swat, but also those like the Taliban who think girls should not go to school.

  That morning had begun like any other, though a little later than usual. It was exam time so school started at nine instead of eight, which was good as I don’t like getting up and can sleep through the crows of the cocks and the prayer calls of the muezzin. First my father would try to rouse me. ‘Time to get up, Jani mun,’ he would say. This means ‘soulmate’ in Persian, and he always called me that at the start of the day. ‘A few more minutes, Aba, please,’ I’d beg, then burrow deeper under the quilt. Then my mother would come. ‘Pisho,’ she would call. This means ‘cat’ and is her name for me. At this point I’d realise the time and shout, ‘Bhabi, I’m late!’ In our culture, every man is your ‘brother’ and every woman your ‘sister’. That’s how we think of each other. When my father first brought his wife to school, all the teachers referred to her as ‘my brother’s wife’ or Bhabi. That’s how it stayed from then on. We all call her Bhabi now.

  I slept in the long room at the front of our house, and the only furniture was a bed and a cabinet which I had bought with some of the money I had been given as an award for campaigning for peace in our valley and the right for girls to go to school. On some shelves were all the gold-coloured plastic cups and trophies I had won for coming first in my class. Only twice had I not come top – both times when I was beaten by my class rival Malka e-Noor. I was determined it would not happen again.

  The school was not far from my home and I used to walk, but since the start of last year I had been going with other girls in a rickshaw and coming home by bus. It was a journey of just five minutes along the stinky stream, past the giant billboard for Dr Humayun’s Hair Transplant Institute where we joked that one of our bald male teachers must have gone when he suddenly started to sprout hair. I liked the bus because I didn’t get as sweaty as when I walked, and I could chat with my friends and gossip with Usman Ali, the driver, who we called Bhai Jan, or ‘Brother’. He made us all laugh with his crazy stories.

  I had started taking the bus because my mother was scared of me walking on my own. We had been getting threats all year. Some were in the newspapers, some were notes or messages passed on by people. My mother was worried about me, but the Taliban had never come for a girl and I was more concerned they would target my father as he was always speaking out against them. His close friend and fellow campaigner Zahid Khan had been shot in the face in August on his way to prayers and I knew everyone was telling my father, ‘Take care, you’ll be next.’

  Our street could not be reached by car, so coming home I would get off the bus on the road below by the stream and go through a barred iron gate and up a flight of steps. I thought if anyone attacked me it would be on those steps. Like my father I’ve always been a daydreamer, and sometimes in lessons my mind would drift and I’d imagine that on the way home a terrorist might jump out and shoot me on those steps. I wondered what I would do. Maybe I’d take off my shoes and hit him, but the
n I’d think if I did that there would be no difference between me and a terrorist. It would be better to plead, ‘OK, shoot me, but first listen to me. What you are doing is wrong. I’m not against you personally, I just want every girl to go to school.’

  I wasn’t scared but I had started making sure the gate was locked at night and asking God what happens when you die. I told my best friend Moniba everything. We’d lived on the same street when we were little and been friends since primary school and we shared everything, Justin Bieber songs and Twilight movies, the best face-lightening creams. Her dream was to be a fashion designer although she knew her family would never agree to it, so she told everyone she wanted to be a doctor. It’s hard for girls in our society to be anything other than teachers or doctors if they can work at all. I was different – I never hid my desire when I changed from wanting to be a doctor to wanting to be an inventor or a politician. Moniba always knew if something was wrong. ‘Don’t worry,’ I told her. ‘The Taliban have never come for a small girl.’

  When our bus was called, we ran down the steps. The other girls all covered their heads before emerging from the door and climbing up into the back. The bus was actually what we call a dyna, a white Toyota TownAce truck with three parallel benches, one along either side and one in the middle. It was cramped with twenty girls and three teachers. I was sitting on the left between Moniba and a girl from the year below called Shazia Ramzan, holding our exam folders to our chests and our school bags under our feet.

  After that it is all a bit hazy. I remember that inside the dyna it was hot and sticky. The cooler days were late coming and only the faraway mountains of the Hindu Kush had a frosting of snow. The back where we sat had no windows, just thick plastic sheeting at the sides which flapped and was too yellowed and dusty to see through. All we could see was a little stamp of open sky out of the back and glimpses of the sun, at that time of day a yellow orb floating in the dust that streamed over everything.

  I remember that the bus turned right off the main road at the army checkpoint as always and rounded the corner past the deserted cricket ground. I don’t remember any more.

  In my dreams about the shooting my father is also in the bus and he is shot with me, and then there are men everywhere and I am searching for my father.

  In reality what happened was we suddenly stopped. On our left was the tomb of Sher Mohammad Khan, the finance minister of the first ruler of Swat, all overgrown with grass, and on our right the snack factory. We must have been less than 200 metres from the checkpoint.

  We couldn’t see in front, but a young bearded man in light-coloured clothes had stepped into the road and waved the van down.

  ‘Is this the Khushal School bus?’ he asked our driver. Usman Bhai Jan thought this was a stupid question as the name was painted on the side. ‘Yes,’ he said.

  ‘I need information about some children,’ said the man.

  ‘You should go to the office,’ said Usman Bhai Jan.

  As he was speaking another young man in white approached the back of the van. ‘Look, it’s one of those journalists coming to ask for an interview,’ said Moniba. Since I’d started speaking at events with my father to campaign for girls’ education and against those like the Taliban who want to hide us away, journalists often came, even foreigners, though not like this in the road.

  The man was wearing a peaked cap and had a handkerchief over his nose and mouth as if he had flu. He looked like a college student. Then he swung himself onto the tailboard at the back and leaned in right over us.

  ‘Who is Malala?’ he demanded.

  No one said anything, but several of the girls looked at me. I was the only girl with my face not covered.

  That’s when he lifted up a black pistol. I later learned it was a Colt 45. Some of the girls screamed. Moniba tells me I squeezed her hand.

  My friends say he fired three shots, one after another. The first went through my left eye socket and out under my left shoulder. I slumped forward onto Moniba, blood coming from my left ear, so the other two bullets hit the girls next to me. One bullet went into Shazia’s left hand. The third went through her left shoulder and into the upper right arm of Kainat Riaz.

  My friends later told me the gunman’s hand was shaking as he fired.

  By the time we got to the hospital my long hair and Moniba’s lap were full of blood.

  Who is Malala? I am Malala and this is my story.

  PART ONE

  Before the Taliban

  Sorey sorey pa golo rashey

  Da be nangai awaz de ra ma sha mayena

  Rather I receive your bullet-riddled body with honour

  Than news of your cowardice on the battlefield

  (Traditional Pashto couplet)

  1

  A Daughter Is Born

  WHEN I WAS born, people in our village commiserated with my mother and nobody congratulated my father. I arrived at dawn as the last star blinked out. We Pashtuns see this as an auspicious sign. My father didn’t have any money for the hospital or for a midwife so a neighbour helped at my birth. My parents’ first child was stillborn but I popped out kicking and screaming. I was a girl in a land where rifles are fired in celebration of a son, while daughters are hidden away behind a curtain, their role in life simply to prepare food and give birth to children.

  For most Pashtuns it’s a gloomy day when a daughter is born. My father’s cousin Jehan Sher Khan Yousafzai was one of the few who came to celebrate my birth and even gave a handsome gift of money. Yet, he brought with him a vast family tree of our clan, the Dalokhel Yousafzai, going right back to my great-great-grandfather and showing only the male line. My father, Ziauddin, is different from most Pashtun men. He took the tree, drew a line like a lollipop from his name and at the end of it he wrote, ‘Malala’. His cousin laughed in astonishment. My father didn’t care. He says he looked into my eyes after I was born and fell in love. He told people, ‘I know there is something different about this child.’ He even asked friends to throw dried fruits, sweets and coins into my cradle, something we usually only do for boys.

  I was named after Malalai of Maiwand, the greatest heroine of Afghanistan. Pashtuns are a proud people of many tribes split between Pakistan and Afghanistan. We live as we have for centuries by a code called Pashtunwali, which obliges us to give hospitality to all guests and in which the most important value is nang or honour. The worst thing that can happen to a Pashtun is loss of face. Shame is a very terrible thing for a Pashtun man. We have a saying, ‘Without honour, the world counts for nothing.’ We fight and feud among ourselves so much that our word for cousin – tarbur – is the same as our word for enemy. But we always come together against outsiders who try to conquer our lands. All Pashtun children grow up with the story of how Malalai inspired the Afghan army to defeat the British in 1880 in one of the biggest battles of the Second Anglo-Afghan War.

  Malalai was the daughter of a shepherd in Maiwand, a small town on the dusty plains west of Kandahar. When she was a teenager, both her father and the man she was supposed to marry were among thousands of Afghans fighting against the British occupation of their country. Malalai went to the battlefield with other women from the village to tend the wounded and take them water. She saw their men were losing, and when the flag-bearer fell she lifted her white veil up high and marched onto the battlefield in front of the troops.

  ‘Young love!’ she shouted. ‘If you do not fall in the battle of Maiwand then, by God, someone is saving you as a symbol of shame.’

  Malalai was killed under fire, but her words and bravery inspired the men to turn the battle around. They destroyed an entire brigade, one of the worst defeats in the history of the British army. The Afghans were so proud that the last Afghan king built a Maiwand victory monument in the centre of Kabul. In high school I read some Sherlock Holmes and laughed to see that this was the same battle where Dr Watson was wounded before becoming partner to the great detective. In Malalai we Pashtuns have our very own Joan of Arc. Many gi
rls’ schools in Afghanistan are named after her. But my grandfather, who was a religious scholar and village cleric, didn’t like my father giving me that name. ‘It’s a sad name,’ he said. ‘It means grief-stricken.’

  When I was a baby my father used to sing me a song written by the famous poet Rahmat Shah Sayel of Peshawar. The last verse ends,

  O Malalai of Maiwand,

  Rise once more to make Pashtuns understand the song of honour,

  Your poetic words turn worlds around,

  I beg you, rise again

  My father told the story of Malalai to anyone who came to our house. I loved hearing the story and the songs my father sang to me, and the way my name floated on the wind when people called it.

  We lived in the most beautiful place in all the world. My valley, the Swat Valley, is a heavenly kingdom of mountains, gushing waterfalls and crystal-clear lakes. WELCOME TO PARADISE, it says on a sign as you enter the valley. In olden times Swat was called Uddyana, which means ‘garden’. We have fields of wild flowers, orchards of delicious fruit, emerald mines and rivers full of trout. People often call Swat the Switzerland of the East – we even had Pakistan’s first ski resort. The rich people of Pakistan came on holiday to enjoy our clean air and scenery and our Sufi festivals of music and dancing. And so did many foreigners, all of whom we called angrezan – ‘English’ – wherever they came from. Even the Queen of England came, and stayed in the White Palace that was built from the same marble as the Taj Mahal by our king, the first wali of Swat.

  We have a special history too. Today Swat is part of the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, or KPK, as many Pakistanis call it, but Swat used to be separate from the rest of Pakistan. We were once a princely state, one of three with the neighbouring lands of Chitral and Dir. In colonial times our kings owed allegiance to the British but ruled their own land. When the British gave India independence in 1947 and divided it, we went with the newly created Pakistan but stayed autonomous. We used the Pakistani rupee, but the government of Pakistan could only intervene on foreign policy. The wali administered justice, kept the peace between warring tribes and collected ushur – a tax of ten per cent of income – with which he built roads, hospitals and schools.

 
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