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Malala the Powerful

The true story of a teen girl who almost died for her right to go to school

Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images

“On my way from school to home I heard a man saying, ‘I will kill you.’”
—Malala Yousafzai

Before You Read: Check out our Background Builder slideshow

 

Jim McMahon/Mapman ® 

    October 9, 2012, was an ordinary afternoon in the Swat Valley in northern Pakistan. Malala Yousafzai [yoo-suf-ZEYE], 15, was on a school bus waiting to go home. Suddenly, two gunmen in masks appeared. 

    “Who is Malala?” one of them yelled.

    A feeling of terror filled the bus. Then the gunmen opened fire. One bullet hit Malala’s head. Two of Malala’s friends were struck in their arms. Then the gunmen ran off, leaving Malala to die. 

    It might be difficult to understand why anyone would try to murder an innocent girl on her way home from school. But some people in Pakistan did not view Malala for what she was: a bright and kind teenager. They saw her as a dangerous threat to their way of life. 

    Malala had been fighting for the right for all girls to go to school—work that made her famous around the world.

    It also made her a target of an evil group of terrorists called the Taliban.

    It was October 9, 2012. Malala Yousafzai [yoo-suf-ZEYE] was on a school bus. She was 15 years old. She lived in the Swat Valley in northern Pakistan. Suddenly, two men got on the bus. They had guns.

    “Who is Malala?” one of them yelled.

    The gunmen began shooting. A bullet hit Malala in the head. Two of her friends were hit in their arms. Then the gunmen ran away. 

    Why would anyone try to kill Malala? She was bright and kind. But some people in Pakistan did not see her that way. She was trying to change things in Pakistan. So they thought she was dangerous. They saw her as a threat to their way of life. 

    Malala had been fighting for girls. She wanted all girls to be able to go to school. She became famous for this work. 

    A group called the Taliban wanted to stop her. The Taliban are an evil group of terrorists.

    At first, October 9, 2012, seemed like an ordinary day in the Swat Valley in northern Pakistan. Malala Yousafzai [yoo-suf-ZEYE], 15, was on a school bus waiting to go home. Suddenly, two masked gunmen stormed the bus. 

    One of them yelled out, “Who is Malala?”

    Terror immediately filled the bus. Then the gunmen opened fire. Malala was hit in the head with a bullet, and two of her friends were struck in their arms. Then the gunmen fled, leaving Malala to die. 

    It seems inconceivable that anyone would attempt to murder an innocent girl on her way home from school. But some people in Pakistan did not view Malala as the bright, kind teenager she was. Instead, they perceived her as a dangerous threat to their way of life.  

    Malala had been strongly advocating for all girls to have the opportunity to go to school. Her activism had made her famous around the world.

    It also made her a target of the Taliban, an evil group of terrorists in Pakistan.

Taliban Control 

    The Taliban were not part of Pakistan’s government, but their forces were powerful. Their members followed an extreme form of the religion Islam. Most Muslims—people who follow Islam—do not agree with the Taliban.

    Malala is from Mingora, a city in the Swat Valley. Starting in 2007, the Taliban began taking control of Swat. They blew up government buildings and murdered police officers. At night, Malala often woke up to the sound of gunfire. Mingora became a war zone.

    Under Taliban control, people were forced to follow oppressive religious rules. All music, television, and movies were banned. Women were not allowed to go to school or do any work outside of the home. 

    If a person broke these rules, he or she could be beaten—or even killed.

    The Taliban were not part of the government in Pakistan. But they were powerful. They followed Islam. But they followed an extreme form of the religion. Most Muslims do not agree with the Taliban. (People who follow Islam are called Muslims.) 

    In 2007, the Taliban began taking control of Swat. They blew up government buildings. They killed police officers. Swat became a war zone. 

    The Taliban forced people to follow many oppressive religious rules. People were not allowed to listen to music. TV and movies were banned too. Women could not go to school or have jobs outside the home. 

    People who broke the rules could be beaten. They might even be killed.

    Despite not being a part of Pakistan’s government, the Taliban’s forces were very powerful. Taliban members followed an extreme form of the religion Islam. Most Muslims—people who follow Islam—do not agree with the Taliban.

    In 2007, the Taliban began exerting control over Swat, blowing up government buildings and murdering police officers. Malala’s town, Mingora, became a war zone, and Malala was often woken in the middle of the night by gunfire. 

    The Taliban forced people in Swat to obey oppressive religious rules. All music, television, and movies were banned, and women were not allowed to go to school or do any work outside of the home. 

    Anyone who broke these rules might be beaten—or even killed.

Top Secret School 

    In January 2009, the Taliban ordered all girls’ schools to close. That included Malala’s school, which her father owned. 

    It was very upsetting news. School was one of the most important parts of Malala’s life, and she knew how lucky she was. After all, fewer than half the girls who lived in Pakistan’s countryside had a chance to go to school.

    Malala’s father made the dangerous decision to keep his school open. So Malala and her classmates stopped wearing their school uniforms. They hid their books under their clothing. Staying alive meant that going to school had to be top secret.

    Malala was scared—and angry. Was there anything she could do to fight back?

    In January 2009, the Taliban gave an order. They said all schools for girls had to close. That included Malala’s school. Her father owned it. 

    School was important to Malala. She knew she was lucky. In Pakistan’s countryside, many girls did not have the chance to go to school. 

    Malala’s father did not follow the order. He kept his school open. It was a dangerous decision. Malala and her classmates knew going to school had to be a secret. They stopped wearing their school uniforms. They hid their books under their clothing as they walked to school. They did these things to stay alive. 

    Malala was scared. She was also angry. She wanted to fight back. But how?

    In January 2009, the Taliban ordered all girls’ schools to close, including Malala’s school, which her father owned. 

    The news was deeply upsetting to Malala, who placed a high value on education. Fewer than half the girls who lived in Pakistan’s countryside had the opportunity to go to school, so Malala knew she was very fortunate.

    Malala’s father made the dangerous decision to defy the Taliban and keep his school open. In order to stay alive, the students had to keep their activities top secret. So Malala and her classmates stopped wearing their school uniforms, and they hid their books beneath their clothing.

    Malala was scared and angry—but was there anything she could do to fight back?

Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham/Handout/Reuters (Hospital); Fareed Khan/AP Images

Fighting to Survive
Malala got better in a hospital in England. The bullet badly damaged her hearing and fractured—or cracked—her skull. (left)

 

A Hero for Girls
Students in Pakistan hold up pictures of Malala. After the attack, people around the world gathered to show support for Malala and girls’ education. (right)

A Powerful Weapon

    It turns out that Malala had a powerful weapon of her own: her voice. And she would risk everything to use it. 

    In 2009, she began writing for a British blog. Using a pseudonym, she shared what her life was like under the Taliban. She wrote about her dream of becoming a doctor one day and her fears of the terrorists. “On my way from school to home I heard a man saying, ‘I will kill you,’” she wrote.

    The blog was an instant hit. Soon, people all over the world were reading it—and learning what was happening in Swat.

    Malala realized she had her own weapon. It was her voice. It was powerful. She would risk everything to use it. 

    In 2009, she began writing a blog. That’s an online diary. Anyone can read it. Malala used a pseudonym—a fake name. She wrote about her life under the Taliban. She wrote that she was afraid. “On my way from school to home I heard a man saying, ‘I will kill you,’” she wrote.

    People all over the world read her blog. They were shocked by what the Taliban were doing.

    As it turned out, Malala had her own powerful weapon: her voice. And she would risk everything to use it.

    In 2009, using a pseudonym, Malala began writing for a British blog. She described the hardships of her life under Taliban control. She wrote about her dream of becoming a doctor one day and her fear of the terrorists. “On my way from school to home I heard a man saying, ‘I will kill you,’” she wrote.

    The blog was an instant hit. People all over the world were reading it—and learning what was happening in Swat.

Malala’s Crusade

    In May 2009, the Pakistani army finally launched an attack against the Taliban in Swat. Along with millions of others, Malala and her family escaped to the south. The conflict lasted for three months. By August, it was finally safe to go home. 

    After that, Malala began an attack of her own. She came forward as the famous blogger. She went on television and gave powerful speeches to Pakistani kids. Her message: All children deserve the right to an education. 

    But in 2010, notes began appearing under Malala’s door. They ordered her to give up her crusade—or else. Still, she refused to back down. In October 2012, the Taliban shot her. 

    After the shooting, Malala was flown to a hospital in England that treats serious brain injuries. Her family soon joined her. Meanwhile, the Taliban spoke out. They said the shooting was a warning to other girls not to follow Malala’s example. 

    But people around the world weren’t scared. They continued Malala’s fight. Protesters marched—many of them were kids carrying signs that read “I Am Malala.”

    In May 2009, the Pakistani army attacked the Taliban in Swat. The conflict lasted for three months. 

    Things seemed safer after that. So Malala went on television. She said she was the famous blogger. She gave speeches. Her message: All children deserve an education. 

    In 2010, Malala started finding notes under her door. They ordered her to stop her crusade. But she did not stop. In October 2012, the Taliban shot her. 

    Malala was flown to a hospital in England. Her family soon joined her. The Taliban said they had done the shooting. They said it was a warning to other girls in Pakistan. The Taliban did not want them to act like Malala. 

    But people around the world weren’t scared. They continued Malala’s fight. They marched for education. Many of them were kids. They carried signs that read “I Am Malala.”

    In May 2009, the Pakistani army finally launched an attack against the Taliban in Swat. Malala and her family, along with millions of others, escaped to the south. After three months, the conflict was over, and it was safe to go home. 

    Not long after, Malala began an attack of her own. She came forward as the famous blogger. She appeared on television, and she gave powerful speeches to Pakistani children. Her message: All children deserve the chance to get an education. 

    But in 2010, notes began appearing under Malala’s door, ordering her to give up her crusade—or else. Malala refused to back down, and in October 2012, the Taliban shot her. 

    Malala was flown to a hospital in England that treats serious brain injuries, and her family soon joined her there. Meanwhile, the Taliban spoke out, declaring that the shooting was a warning to other girls not to follow Malala’s example. 

    But people around the world refused to be intimidated, and they continued Malala’s fight. Protesters marched, many of them kids carrying signs that read “I Am Malala.”

A-Digit/Getty Images (Silhouettes); iStockPhoto/Getty Images (Pencil)

What Girls Can Do

    It’s been a little more than seven years since the shooting. Malala survived, and her family stayed in England. There, Malala got the one thing she always wanted: an education. 

    About 130 million girls around the world do not attend school. Often it is because they must work to earn money for their families. Sometimes it is because they have no school to go to. In 2014, Malala started the Malala Fund, a group that is working to change that.

    Today, Malala is a student at Oxford University in England. She isn’t sure what career path she will choose. But she knows she will keep fighting for girls and women: “If one girl with an education can change the world, just imagine what 130 million can do.”

    The shooting happened about seven years ago. Malala survived. She and her family stayed in England. There, Malala got what she always wanted: an education. 

    About 130 million girls around the world do not go to school. Many of them must work. They have to earn money for their families. Others have no school to go to. In 2014, Malala started the Malala Fund. This group works to help all girls go to school.

    Today, Malala goes to college in England. She hasn’t picked a career path. But she knows she will keep fighting for girls and women. “If one girl with an education can change the world, just imagine what 130 million can do,” she says”

    Malala survived the shooting, which was more than seven years ago. She and her family remained in England, where Malala was able to get the one thing she always wanted: an education. 

    Approximately 130 million girls around the world do not attend school. The circumstances that prevent these girls from getting an education vary. Many of the girls have to work instead to earn money to support their families. For other girls, the obstacle is that they have no school to go to. 

    In 2014, Malala started the Malala Fund, an organization that works to make education possible and accessible for all girls.

    Today, Malala is a student at Oxford University in England. Although she is still deciding on a career path, she feels certain that she will continue fighting for the rights of girls and women: 

    “If one girl with an education can change the world,” Malala says, “just imagine what 130 million can do.”

Background Builder

ACTIVITY: 
Finding text evidence

You’ve just read “Malala the Powerful.” Now do this activity to help you better understand the article.

Tip: Text evidence means details in a story that support an answer, or show that it is true.

What to do: Use text evidence—or details from the article—to answer the questions below. We did the first one for you.

You’ve just read “Malala the Powerful.” Now do this activity to help you better understand the article.

Tip: Text evidence means details in a story that support an answer, or show that it is true.

What to do: Use text evidence—or details from the article—to answer the questions below. We did the first one for you.

You’ve just read “Malala the Powerful.” Now do this activity to help you better understand the article.

Tip: Text evidence means details in a story that support an answer, or show that it is true.

What to do: Use text evidence—or details from the article—to answer the questions below. We did the first one for you.

What was life like under Taliban control?

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “Taliban Control.”

Answer: Things like movies and TV were banned. Women weren’t allowed to go to school or have jobs.

What was life like under Taliban control?

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “Taliban Control.”

Answer: Things like movies and TV were banned. Women weren’t allowed to go to school or have jobs.

What was life like under Taliban control?

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “Taliban Control.”

Answer: Things like movies and TV were banned. Women weren’t allowed to go to school or have jobs.

What did Malala write about on her blog?

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “A Powerful Weapon.”

What did Malala write about on her blog?

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “A Powerful Weapon.”

What did Malala write about on her blog?

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “A Powerful Weapon.”

What “attack” did Malala begin in 2009?

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “Malala’s Crusade.”

What “attack” did Malala begin in 2009?

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “Malala’s Crusade.”

What “attack” did Malala begin in 2009?

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “Malala’s Crusade.”

Why did Malala start the Malala Fund?

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “What Girls Can Do.”