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Young activist from Pakistan shot

File photo.
File photo.

Malala Yousafzai, along with two of her classmates, were shot by a Taliban gunman in the northern city of Mingora on Tuesday. Yousafzai was targeted because of her activism for girls’ education in defiance of the Pakistani Taliban. A Taliban spokesman said that she was “promoting secularism,” and that her campaign was an “obscenity.” All three girls survived, though Yousafzai was sent to Britain for a better recovery.

Yousafzai was hit once during the shooting. The bullet had passed through her head and  lodged in her shoulder. She immediately received care at a military hospital in Peshawar and underwent a successful operation, though she remained in critical condition. Two British doctors were in Pakistan at the time attending a seminar, and were immediately flown to the hospital to help. Yousafzai was later moved to a specialist hospital in Rawalpindi for further treatment.

Pakistan had initially approached America for help, and the two nations discussed options of transferring her to Germany or an American hospital in Oman, but Yousafzai was still too weak to fly, and over the course of the weekend numerous offers from around the world were extended to her family, including one from former Congressional member Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, who even arranged for a neurosurgeon to fly to Pakistan if necessary.

The family eventually chose to accept Britain’s offer. On Monday, a hospital jet provided by the United Arab Emirates flew Yousafzai to Birmingham for treatment at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which has a new facility specializing in bullet wounds and head injuries. Yousafzai’s condition remains unclear, and even with recovery, doctors at Rawalpindi advise “prolonged care to fully recover from the physical and psychological effects of trauma,” which would be better provided in Britain.

Yousafzai has been campaigning for education rights since the age of two, writing a blog for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban, who had controlled her hometown in Swat Valley since 2007. Her father, a schoolteacher himself, continued teaching in defiance of Taliban orders to end female education, and encouraged his daughter’s activism. Although the Taliban were ousted in 2009, young Yousafzai continued to receive death threats.

At the time of the shooting, she was on her way home, travelling in a truck outfitted with benches that served as a school bus for Yousafzai and her classmates. Al Jazeera, a newspaper funded by the government of Qatar, reports Kainat Riaz’s account of the story.

“A young man stuck his head into the back of the van. He had a pistol in his hand … We were all terrified … He asked about Malala, asking who she was. When a classmate responded, he started firing.”

Riaz also received a bullet wound in her upper right arm, and was treated by family members.

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