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‘Back with eyes open’ – Malala on return to Swat

SWAT VALLEY: Nobel laureate and girls’ education activist Malala Yousafzai visited her hometown Swat Valley on Saturday for the first time since she was shot while returning from school in 2012.

“I left Swat with my eyes closed and now I am back with my eyes open,” she said in an interview after landing in Swat, referring to how she was airlifted out in a coma after the attack in 2012.

“I am extremely delighted. My dream has come true. Peace has returned to Swat because of the invaluable sacrifices rendered by my brothers and sisters,” she said at a school outside Mingora, the district’s main town, where she was escorted by the Pakistani military.

The brief trip by the 20-year-old Nobel laureate is a highly symbolic moment for Pakistan, which regularly touts Swat as a success story in its long battle with extremism as it defends itself against accusations by the US and others that its northwest remains a safe haven for militancy.

The visit — on which she was accompanied by her father, mother, and two brothers — was kept tightly under wraps.

State Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and other officials accompanied Malala during the visit. A helicopter was brought in Islamabad to take Malala to Swat.

Malala visits Swat

Reports say that the stringent security measures were taken and roads leading to Malala’s home in Mingora were blocked earlier in a day as part of a security plan.

The 20-year-old had asked the authorities to allow her the visit to Shangla village in Swat where a school currently operates under the Malala Fund.

Malala visits Swat

Mingora’s security was tightened up after following the possibility of Malala arriving there. Malala wanted to travel to Swat to see her former schools friends and relatives.

She made a surprise visit to Pakistan with her parents under tight security overnight. Social media was crammed with messages of welcome and admiration from all around Pakistan hailing her bravery and what she represents.

Malala Yousafzai
Malala in her old house in Mingora

Malala has become a global symbol for human rights and a strong social activist for girls’ education since a gunman boarded her school bus on October 9, 2012, asked “Who is Malala?” and shot her.

In 2013, Yousafzai and her father Ziauddin co-founded the Malala Fund to bring awareness to the social and economic impact of girls’ education worldwide.

On December 10, 2014, Yousafzai received Nobel Peace Prize with Indian children’s rights and education advocate Kailash Satyarthi.

How Malala became the world icon?

Malala Yousafzai, has been living in the UK since October 2012. She was shifted from Pakistan to a hospital in Birmingham in a precarious condition after she had sustained a bullet in her head in a targeted attack by the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Swat. She was on her way home in a school van with other girls after taking an exam when the TTP men opened fire on them. Two other girls also sustained gunshot wounds.

Malala Yousafzai visits Swat

Malala began her campaign aged just 11, when she started writing a blog — under a pseudonym — for the BBC’s Urdu service in 2009 about life under the Taliban in Swat, where they were banning girls’ education.

In 2007 the Islamist militants had taken over the area, which Malala affectionately called “My Swat”, and imposed a brutal, bloody rule.

Opponents were murdered, people were publicly flogged for supposed breaches of sharia law, women were banned from going to market, and girls were stopped from going to school.

But it was only after the shooting, and a subsequent near-miraculous recovery, that she became a truly global figure.

She opened a Twitter account on her last day of school in July 2017 and now has more than a million followers.

“I know that millions of girls around the world are out of school and may never get the opportunity to complete their education,” Malala wrote at the time.

During a recent appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the feminist campaigner urged women to “change the world” without waiting for the help of men.

“We won’t ask men to change the world, we’re going to do it ourselves,” Malala said.

“We’re going to stand up for ourselves, we’re going to raise our voices and we’re going to change the world.”

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