Friday, May 9, 2014

I Am Malala: The Day My World Changed (9 Oct 2012)


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 build- ings, 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.

Pakistan's Swat Valley: Malala's homeland.
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 rick- shaw 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 then 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 climb- ing 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 float- ing 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.

(But following two videos are the world Muslims' rejection of Malala as part of
so-called Islamophobic Campaign by the West.)
video
video

Related posts at following links:
Nobel Committee's Norwegian Socialists Denied Malala Her Nobel Prize