The Times of London named Malala Yousufzai “Young Person of the Year” for her heroism “not only beyond her years, but almost beyond belief.”
In October 2012, the young Pakistani education and women rights’ activist was shot in the head and neck by the Taliban on the school bus, while she was returning home from classes. Malala is still recovering from her shot in a hospital in the United Kingdom in what is considered a miracle recovery. She will have to undergo more surgery, when she regains her strengthen. Although the Taliban has threatened to attempt to kill her again, she remains unfazed by the threats and determined to continue fighting for her cause.
Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala’s father, has welcomed the prestigious newspaper’s decision, but emphasized that the award belongs to every Pakistani child determined to get an education and make Pakistan a democratic and educated country. He further stressed that Malala fought for all Pakistani children and that all of them deserve tribute, encouragement and the world’s support in attaining their education rights.
The Times justified its decision to name Malala “Young Person of the Year,” by emphasizing that, as opposed to her attackers, the young girl did not use weapons, but words, and was not afraid to stand up against the Taliban, in a time when it was killing hundreds of people, bombing and burning girls’ schools and destroying 150 educational institutions in 2008 alone.
Malala started fighting against the Taliban at the tender age of 12, when she wrote blog posts for BBC Urdu. In her posts, she talked about the Taliban’s gradual takeover of the Swat Valley, where she lived, and the dire consequences this brought for education, girls education in particular, as the Taliban blew up school and prohibited girls from attending school. She also presented her and other girls’ struggle to continue attending school and revolt against the Taliban’s actions. In late 2009, Malala started appearing on television as an advocate for female education. In 2011, she was presented the National Peace Award, given to individual’s under the age of 18. While her relentless advocacy work made her prominent in the broader movement for education and women’s rights in Pakistan, it was the Taliban’s assassination attempt that transformed her into an international symbol of education. Ban Ki-Moon has declared that Malala is an inspiration for the education of girls around the world.
Apart from her inspiring courage, Malala’s modesty and genuine care for others make her stand out. Last week, she asked the Pakistani government to annul a decision to name a school after her, when its students protested that having her name would transform them into a direct target for the Taliban.
She also recently made a personal phone call to Ayesha Mir, a young Pakistani girl traumatized by a near miss of a shrapnel-packed bomb placed under her family’s car intended to kill her father, television news presenter Hamid Mir, who often criticizes the Taliban during his broadcasts. The terrified young girl did not want to go back to school, until she received a phone call from Malala, who told her to stay strong, not give up as well as be proud of and support the work that her father was doing. This is one of the first calls Malala has made back in Pakistan and it was aimed at passing on some of her courage and wisdom to other young girls.
The Times emphasizes that Malala “is not only an exponent of the vital cause of female education and an exemplar of personal heroism but also represents the values of the enlightenment as it contends with barbarism. (…) She stands for the power of an idea, of the resilience of the human spirit against totalitarianism.” In a message recently read by Anderson Cooper during CNN Heroes ceremony in Los Angeles, Malala not only thanked everyone who had expressed support for her and offered praise to the Pakistani girls living in northwestern Pakistan for having the courage to continue their studies despite receiving threats from the Taliban, but she modestly turned the attention away from herself, by emphasizing that people actually should support her cause for global education, not her as an individual, and urged everyone to continue fighting for girls’ education worldwide.
Apart from the The Times’ tribute, Malala has received the support of more than one million to be nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Nobel and has already been presented with numerous other prestigious awards and nominations. Recently, Time Magazine declared her Runner-Up Person of the Year for her relentless courage to fight against the Taliban and demand her rights. While retelling her impressive story leading up to her attack, Time Magazine praised the young girl for for the fact, if her first pictures taken immediately after the attack, while she was unconscious, show her as a victim of violence, on her back and swollen, after regaining her consciousness following surgery, she made sure that, in all her subsequent photographs, she be shown with a book in her hand her headscarf carefully draped to hide any signs of damage, to show her supporters her resilience and her continuously dedication to her cause.
Malala does not consider herself and does not want people to consider her a victim. She is a fighter, who has not give up on her dream and will pick up the fight as ardently as ever as soon as her recovery finishes. Now she has millions of global supporters who, inflamed by her passion, are waiting to take action by her side to make her dreams of education and women’s rights come true.