Fifteen-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai had anticipated being attacked long before a Taliban gunman put a bullet in her head. In a diary she wrote for the BBC in 2009, she described the anxiety she felt continuing to attend school in the Swat Valley, then a Taliban stronghold, after the group announced that girls’ education would soon be banned. Though she penned it under a pseudonym, her profile grew and she began to appear in the media, articulate beyond her years. In a country where grown men temper their public actions for fear of retribution, she calmly explained her duty to “stand up”.
“I shall raise my voice,” she told CNN last year. “I have the right of education. I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk.” This October, she was singled out and shot on her school bus.
Pakistan experienced a brief moment of collective revulsion at the attack. Malala’s courage, meanwhile, resonated throughout the world, with tens of thousands petitioning for her to be given a Nobel Prize, and the UN launching a campaign for universal education access in her name. As Malala recovers in a UK hospital, her defiance continues. Recent photos show her in her room – reading.
Abigail Fielding-Smith is the FT’s Beirut correspondent
Women of 2012