In an imaginative piece of international co-operation, the United Kingdom and Pakistan have worked out a way for the entire Yousufzai family to live in the relative safety of England for the next three years without immigrating. Ziauddin Yousufzai has been named Pakistan’s education attache in Birmingham, where Pakistan maintains a diplomatic mission. This appointment, which is for a period of three years, will allow Malalai, her parents and two brothers to live in England rather than return to the Swat Valley in Pakistan where the Taliban have put a bounty on Malalai’s life.
On October 9, 2012, while returning from school, Malalai was shot in the head by a Taliban fighter who sought to silence this 15-year-old advocate for female education. After receiving emergency treatment at two hospitals in Pakistan, Malalai was transferred to Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, which is known for its work with traumatic brain injuries incurred by British soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Her recovery has been remarkable. The brains of teenagers are still growing, and the path the bullet took was not directly through her brain, but along the space between her brain and skull, lodging near her spine at the base of her skull. Dr. David Rosser, the medical director for University Hospitals Birmingham, explained, “Malalai is a strong young woman and has worked hard with the people caring for her to make excellent progress in her recovery. Following discussions with Malalai and her medical team, we decided that she would benefit from being home with her parents and two brothers.” She was released from the hospital on Friday, January 4, 2013, waving to the press and her assembled admirers. The photographs released by the hospital show a slight imbalance in Malalai’s face, less muscle response on her left side than on the right, but she is walking on her own without any assistance and videos of her released during the past three months have shown her talking fluidly with her father.
Malalai is facing a least one more surgery, to reconstruct her shattered skull, and it can be assumed that she will be tutored at home while she recovers. But, after she has fully recovered, she could attend school in England as her brothers will. Ziauddin Yousufzai is a teacher and the founder of the school for girls that Malalai attended. The entire family is fluent in English, both as speakers, and readers and writers. Malalai gained international attention with her English language blog of life under the Taliban and her efforts to receive an education. In all probability, England’s universities will be vying for her application in three years. (I’m rooting for Oxford.)
Malalai made the short list for Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, and has been mentioned as a candidate for a Nobel Peace Prize. When she began her blog, at age 11, her ambition was to become a teacher like her father. Now, Malalai aspires to a political career, citing the deep need in Pakistan for stability and progress, and a government strong enough to terminate the Taliban presence.