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Central & South Asia
Profile: Malala Yousafzai
The 14-year-old education activist became known for 2009 diary showcasing life under the Taliban in the Swat valley.
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2012 12:26

The 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai is a widely respected youth activist who has fought to promote the schooling of girls - something that has not always been a given in her hometown of Mingora.

Yousafzai first came into the public eye in 2009, when private schools in Pakistan's Swat valley were ordered to close in a Taliban edict that forbade girls from attending school.

Starting on January 3, 2009, Yousafzai kept a diary for the BBC's Urdu service, in which she detailed how the ban affected her and her peers. She wrote the blog under the pen name "Gul Makai", meaning "grief stricken".

Her diary entries, which were published online, chronicled three months of life under the local chapter of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, an umbrella group of organisations fighting the Pakistani state, which took hold of the valley in late 2007.

Yousafzai writes about being told "not to wear colourful clothing as the [Taliban] would object to it", and constantly remarks on the noise of artillery fire. The then 11-year-old girl repeatedly expresses her desire to return to school, and sadness that her many of her friends' families were moving away to provinces their daughters could safely attend school.

"I dreamt of a country where education would prevail," she later told the BBC after the Taliban were driven out of Swat at the beginning of 2009.

Last year, she was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize, given by the Dutch organisation KidsRights, and was one of five short-listed candidates out of 98.

"This is an occasion of happiness and pride for me, my friends, my teachers, and my parents," she told the BBC at the time. "I am the very first Pakistani girl, the first Pashtun girl, who has been nominated for the award."

She was later presented with the first National Peace Award for Youth - renamed the National Malala Peace Prize in her honour - which is presented to outstanding Pakistan youth below 18 years of age.

On Tuesday, Yousafzai, who was also featured in two New York Times' documentaries, was shot and injured while she came home from school. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that she was targeted because she spoke against the group.

"She is a Western-minded girl. She always speaks against us. We will target anyone who speaks against the Taliban," Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesperson for the TTP, told the AFP news agency after Yousafzai's shooting.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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