Despite being the youngest-ever Nobel recipient, Malala’s come a long way

Published: October 10, 2014
In this photograph taken on September 17, 2013 Pakistani student who was shot in the head by the Pakistani Taliban, Malala Yousafzai addresses the assembly before receiving the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2013 at the Manison House in Dublin, Ireland. PHOTO: AFP/TRIBUNE CREATIVE

In this photograph taken on September 17, 2013 Pakistani student who was shot in the head by the Pakistani Taliban, Malala Yousafzai addresses the assembly before receiving the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2013 at the Manison House in Dublin, Ireland. PHOTO: AFP/TRIBUNE CREATIVE

KARACHI: Pakistan got its second Nobel laureate when Malala Yousafzai was awarded the prize alongside Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian children’s rights activist, “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”

Malala, now 17, is the youngest recipient of the prize. Her pursuit of education, however, began when she was barely a teenager.

(Read: Malala becomes youngest-ever Nobel Prize winner

Diary of a Pakistani schoolgirl

Malala was 11 when she first started writing a diary for BBC Urdu. Back then, the Taliban had taken over Swat, and had begun implementing their own tyrannical style of governance, which included shutting down girls’ schools. After the ban, many schools continued to operate, but did so clandestinely, with dramatic drops in attendance. Teachers told students to dress in their normal clothes and not their uniforms so that they won’t be caught. Malala continued to go, despite bleeding carcasses littered on the roads around her. Her clarity and verve took on an urgent tone as her world began to crumble around her. Here is an excerpt from one of her diaries:


Five more schools have been destroyed, one of them was near my house. I am quite surprised, because these schools were closed so why did they also need to be destroyed? No one has gone to school following the deadline given by the Taleban.

 Today I went to my friend’s house and she told me that a few days back someone killed Maulana Shah Dauran’s uncle; she said that it may be that the Taleban destroyed the schools in anger at this.”

As her circumstances became even more forbidding, her blog caught the attention of many people both in Pakistan and abroad – it became a symbol of protest. In 2009, the New York Times made a short documentary film about her and father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, a former schoolmaster himself, who is an influential figure in her life, and generally accompanies her wherever she goes.

In 2011, she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize. The same year, former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani awarded her Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize. Inevitably, the Taliban took notice of her activities despite her efforts to remain anonymous.

On October 9 2012, a militant entered the school bus that was supposed to drop the students back to their homes. He asked for Malala, and shot her in the head and neck. Who did it, and why, soon became clear. Ehsanullah Ehsan, the then spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) took full responsibility.

“She has become a symbol of Western culture in the area; she was openly propagating it,” Ehsan said, adding that if she survived, the militants would certainly try to kill her again. “Let this be a lesson.”

Emergency surgery took her to the United Kingdom, where she underwent extensive treatment.

A ‘watershed’ moment, and a ‘drama’

For a moment, it seemed that all the warring parties and bickering politicians had united in her support. Former interior minister Rehman Malik said, “Malala is our pride. She became an icon for the country.” The former army chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani went to visit her, strongly condemning the ‘cowards’ who had attacked her.

Even Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an organization with militant ties, called the attack a “shameful, despicable, barbaric attempt”. There were vigils in cities, and widespread condemnation of the Taliban. Extremist violence, so long a divisive issue in Pakistan, finally seemed to unite country against it.

But then an angry backlash followed. A noisy crowd in the media began to tout her as a ‘Western stooge’ and an ‘attention seeker’. There were also allegations that Malala was an agent planted by the CIA to make Pakistan look bad. To some, her miraculous survival from a headshot wound began to look suspicious. #MalalaDrama began to trend on Twitter.


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Her decision to stay in the UK was also met derisively, many seeing the decision as her co-option by the West, and not as seeking asylum. (The Taliban had warned that they would try to kill her again if they could.) Her book, co-authored by Christina Lamb, was alleged to have blasphemous content, a virtual death sentence in its own right, when she was alleged to defend Salman Rushdie’s right to free speech.

From Pakistani to global activist

Malala became a global phenomenon after her recovery. Apart from the book deal, she began the Malala Fund, a girl’s education advocacy NGO; she appeared on many talk shows, including interviews with Christiane Amanpour and Jon Stewart; she spoke at the UN; took part in the #BringBackOurGirlsCampaign in Nigeria – in short, she became a globe-trotting celebrity activist.

Her new life continues to divide Pakistani public opinion. Some see her position as Western stooge only cemented; her well-wishers see her as a powerful force to both combat religious extremism as well as an advocate for women’s rights – on global stage.

The Nobel Peace Prize, always controversial, will inevitably lead to more debate. Does she deserve it? Aren’t there more suitable candidates? What about X, Y and Z?

Can a 17-year old claim to have done enough to promote peace? The Norwegian Academy certainly thinks so.

Correction: An earlier version of the story erroneously stated that the Swedish Academy picked Malala Yousafzai for the Nobel Peace Prize. 

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Reader Comments (45)

  • Pacifica
    Oct 10, 2014 - 4:34PM

    She is clearly a brave and courageous young girl, and a source of pride to all. Her speech at the UN was clear, honest, powerful, and moving.

    She was the best choice this year. I hope this award will motivate and spur South Asian women to achieve greater equality and rights in what is still, sadly, a very parochial society. For every obscurantist Talib in Pakistan there is a misogynist khap panchayat in India, and hopefully this award will go some way to chip away at their orthodoxy.


  • Professor
    Oct 10, 2014 - 4:38PM

    Congratulations Malala ! Nobody deserves this accolade more. You’re my favorite Pakistani and a beacon of hope for children in the region !!


  • Abdullah
    Oct 10, 2014 - 4:39PM

    Congrats to Malala. :)

    West had to justify its 12 -year war in Afghanistan and drone attacks. That how important it was to bomb to save women and children. Thumbs up


  • Oct 10, 2014 - 4:41PM

    She has made the nation of Pakistan proud. She serves as an inspiration to women around the world. Congratulations to Malala!

    Ali Khan
    Digital Engagement Team, USCENTCOM


  • Hassan
    Oct 10, 2014 - 4:50PM

    As a Pakistani, I am proud of her achievement and hope she will be more successful, Though I personally think that Edward Snowden deserved this prize more than Malala


  • hellodrsoul
    Oct 10, 2014 - 4:55PM

    A national pride, a nascent legend and a courageous child. Congratulations Malala.


  • Haris
    Oct 10, 2014 - 4:55PM

    What good she has done to humanity or specifically Pakistan ? Someone please enlighten me. Thanks


  • Rehan Karim
    Oct 10, 2014 - 5:06PM

    Dr. Abdul Sattar Edhi should have won the Nobel Prize. He has worked daily his life for peace and saved thousands. So why does Malala win the Nobel Peace Prize. All the people who congratulate must think of the reason why. It is part of the scheme to defame Pakistan and Islam and this will not work.


  • Abid P. Khan
    Oct 10, 2014 - 5:15PM

    @Saim Seed:
    “Can a 17-year old claim to have done enough to promote peace? The Swedish Academy certainly thinks so.”

    “Den Norske Nobelkomite” in Oslo, Norway, which gives out the “Nobels Fredpris” (Peace Prize), gives a damn about what does The Swedish Academy, Stockholm, Sweden, think of decisions made by their own committee.

    (ET be kind enough to publish this message.)


  • Alladitta
    Oct 10, 2014 - 5:36PM

    When is she coming to the Pakistan. Hope she does not change nationality to UK like rest of all famous people here.


  • Toticalling
    Oct 10, 2014 - 5:38PM

    Good news. A great girl with courage.Oh but there’ll be the usual suspects along soon to call Malala Yousafzi a quisling and tool of neo-colonialism and the new world order etc etc. And such voices are not a minority in Pakistan. Shameful attitudes.


    Oct 10, 2014 - 5:48PM



  • G. Din
    Oct 10, 2014 - 5:54PM

    @Abid P. Khan:
    @Rehan Karim:
    Nobel Peace Prize has not always been given lately on the basis of work for peace already done but as an encouragement of what the Nobel Committee would like to promote. Thus, the Nobel for Obama who had not done anything till then for peace. Lifework of both Nobel laureates this year eminently fits the aims of Nobel Committee and are fully deserved in this context.
    I am in agreement with the assertion that Dr. Edhi has done a lot for humanity, as did Gandhi. But, neither has so far been considered for a Nobel, nor perhaps shall ever be. But, that doesn’t diminish either at all.


  • Oct 10, 2014 - 5:55PM

    I hope both India and Pakistan will legislate to end child slavery /labor and to make child education compulsory and child marriages a serious crime.

    There are millions of children in these two country who are forced to work as domestic helpers or bonded laborers. I hope Nobel prize to Malala and Kailash will bring awareness among upper and middle classes in these two countries about the evil of child labor.


  • SRahman
    Oct 10, 2014 - 6:02PM

    It is so sad to see so many hate mongers who are try to malign Malala and Nobel Prize by bringing stupid and naïve arguments just to display their frustration and despicable mentality, either by correlating it with Edhi Sahib or some drone victims or out-of-context quotes from some of her writing. I wish Edhi sahib would have received this prestigious award, unfortunately he did not but not to appreciate Malala represents pathetic and atrocious mindset.


  • Jameel
    Oct 10, 2014 - 6:12PM

    The science, economics and literature prizes may have some standing but the peace prize lost all credibility years ago.

    Nobel Peace prizes are awarded for purely political reasons now. Remember they gave the warmonger Obama one and they gave the EU one even though that is the largest grouping of imperialistic nations in the world. When it comes to recepients in third world countries they usually give them to people who forment trouble there. For example Chinese dissidents.


  • sabi
    Oct 10, 2014 - 6:29PM

    Congratulation to Malala Yousufzai and Kailash Satyathi.Wish peace prevail in this region.


  • naeem khan
    Oct 10, 2014 - 6:40PM

    the Nobel peace prize is politically motivated and is given to advance western ideas and ambitions there is no universal criteria for this award unlike those given for sciences which is why Dr Abdul salaam is a true genius and hero of Pakistan the Nobel peace prize is at times highly controversial like when it was given to Woodrow Wilson a racist ,Henry Kissinger responsible for atrocities in middle east and indo china,Menachem Begin the butcher of Lebanon and Muhammad al Baradai who misled the world on Iraqi and subsequently led to war where millions were killed he was also instrumental in overthrowing the elected government in Egypt


  • Shak
    Oct 10, 2014 - 6:41PM

    Congrats to Malala and I hope she uses her new found prestige and help spread awareness and change the education system in pakistan.

    As for Edhi…..his greatness is higher than some award from western “intellectuals.” Peace prize or no, I will always be proud of Edhi’s work and thank Allah for blessing us with a kind soul like his.


  • Pakistani
    Oct 10, 2014 - 6:41PM

    Where are IK, NS, and AZ?? They MUST congratulate Malala and pledge to advance her cause. If they don’t, Pakistanis should discard these so called leaders in trash!


  • ani
    Oct 10, 2014 - 6:45PM

    An Indian and Pakistani national have shared the award for PEACE for the first time. Pretty ironic I’d say considering the current situation at the border :-) I hope both the countries strive for peaceful co-existence, nevertheless, not engaging in internecine wars! Congrats to young and gutsy Malala. She’s a beacon of hope for humanity and women’s equality.


  • Stranger
    Oct 10, 2014 - 6:49PM

    Err .considering the fact that obama too won this prize last year… I doubt if its worth celebrating this time … I am sure both the candidates are genuine but is the prize itself worth anything today ?


  • unbelievable
    Oct 10, 2014 - 6:54PM

    Kudos to Malala – Pakistan should be proud.


  • Ali Tanoli
    Oct 10, 2014 - 6:57PM

    Its allways been political motivated since 70s even Abdu Salam was too and soon salman rushdi Malaoon if get it.


  • Noman
    Oct 10, 2014 - 7:04PM

    Tears of joy in my eyes as I write this. Proud to be a fellow citizen to our beloved daughter of nation, Malala.


  • Naeem Khan
    Oct 10, 2014 - 7:06PM

    Congratulations to you Malala, Pakistanis are proud of you and specially the Pukhtuns, I am a pukhtun from Mardan and you made me hold my head high after so much wrong has been going in our country. God bless you and your family and take care of yourself.


  • Pradeep
    Oct 10, 2014 - 7:06PM

    Congrats Malala and PakistanRecommend

  • Proud
    Oct 10, 2014 - 7:12PM


    We are SOOO Proud of you.

    Pakistan ZindabadRecommend

  • Alter Ego
    Oct 10, 2014 - 7:12PM

    Abdur Sattar Eidi life’s work takes second place to Malala because she has done oh….nothing for education in Pakistan.,
    while Abdur Sattar Eidhi

    runs the world’s largest ambulance service
    operates free nursing homes, orphanages, clinics, women’s shelters, and rehab centres for drug addicts and mentally ill individuals
    It has run relief operations in Africa, Middle East, the Caucasus region, eastern Europe and US where it provided aid following the New Orleans hurricane of 2005.

    If the greatest achievement of Malala was getting shot then perhaps the Noble Prize should also go to the shot soldiers,children killed during drone strikes,and torture victims in Iraq whose pictures were shown daily on the newspapers.

    Does Malala stand anywhere close to the earlier Noble Prize winners like Nelsen Mendela,Martin Luther King.

    Please answer my questions with logic and facts if you can.


  • Raj - USA
    Oct 10, 2014 - 7:13PM

    Congratulations to Malala and Pakistan. I have watched some of Malala’s videos. She talks about how her father used to encourage her constantly and taught here moral and ethical values to her. He requires equal recognition as well. Malala has done a lot for the cause she is fighting but it is sad that she got recognition only after the talibans shot her. She was unknown, both within and outside Pakistan before talibans shot her. Not to be forgotten is that it was the Pakistan army’s hospital that kept her alive. The then President Zardari’s role in taking personel interest in her case and sending her to UK for surgery should not be forgotten as well. I wonder, even if Musharraf had been the President, he would have done so much to save Malala. More than the talibans, PTI will be hating this news of honor for Malala. Imran Khan and Shireen Mazari have been conspicuously avoiding giving any credit to Malala and to say a word of praise for her even by a slip of tongue.


  • Naeem Khan
    Oct 10, 2014 - 7:27PM

    @Raj – USA: Thank you Raj for writing such a heart warming and eloquent comments about Malala. She makes me so proud too because I am from that area..


  • sam
    Oct 10, 2014 - 7:35PM

    YOU GO MALALA :D we support what you stand for. Education for all!!


  • Mirza
    Oct 10, 2014 - 7:55PM

    Beti, Malala I am so very happy for your bravery and achievement. Thanks for bringing the first Nobel Peace prize to our country. You are a living example for all our children especially girls who have been ill treated by many fundamentalists.
    Those who are not happy with Dr. Salaam, Malala, Asma, and other human rights activists I can understand that they only love confessed terrorists like Afia. Let us hope for every evil we have a Malala!


  • kdp
    Oct 10, 2014 - 7:55PM

    With all due respect it is too early to award prize to Ms. Malala. Compared to the life time Mr. Stayarthi has spent in doing REAL meaningful work, all Ms. Malala can do is give speeches her real work in the field has not started because she is too young to do so and not welcome in her own country of Pakistan.


  • abhi
    Oct 10, 2014 - 8:09PM

    Congrats Malala!


  • Hari Om
    Oct 10, 2014 - 8:12PM

    Weird thing about Noble Prize Winners of Pakistani origin is that they are/were persecuted in Pakistan. Malala Yousfzai was shot in the head and had to move abroad for security. Dr. Abdus Salaam was persecuted for being a Muslim of the Ahmaddiyya sect, was forced to live abroad to avoid the stigmatization brought about by Pakistani legislation and suffer the ignominy of being denied a State Funeral with no Pakistan Government Minister attending his funeral.


  • SKChadha
    Oct 10, 2014 - 8:20PM

    Congratulations to Malala and to all Pakistani citizens for having a young girl of her caliber.


  • Gp65
    Oct 10, 2014 - 8:47PM

    Congratulations Malala from Pakistan and Satyarthi from India. Both very worthy of the honor bestowed on them.Satyarthi is a hero for all Indians. Unfortunate that is not the case. But then that was sadly the case with Abdus Salaam also.


  • Oct 10, 2014 - 8:50PM

    A global honor fro Pakistan to produce the world’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala. What a shame that millions of children in Pakistan never go to school and grow up in garbage dumps.


  • Bilal
    Oct 10, 2014 - 9:08PM

    LOL take a look at the comment section of the times of india reporting on Malala brave Indian men abusing a teenager this is the reason why Indians are such low life scumbags they cannot even appreciate the honest efforts of a little girl cowards!


  • Asad Prince
    Oct 10, 2014 - 9:34PM

    As for as Pakistan is concerned its nice to have Nobel Prize. It is partiality and discrimination that other 2 girls accompanying Malala with common cause has been ignored. Over and above Malala did nothing for Public education in Swat before 2012 attack nor she did after attack while dwelling abroad.there is no logic behind Nobel prize.


  • Naeem Khan
    Oct 10, 2014 - 10:44PM

    @Asad Prince: If you would have taken some time and effort to read, you will find that Malala at the age of 11 was blogging all over the world and even the New York Times has a story and documentary about her heroic efforts, while hers and other girls schools were being destroyed by Taliban because they wanted to push Pakistani Muslim girls to the 14th century. The strange part is that the schools were already threatened and they were destroying empty schools. Let me ask you what were you doing when you were 11 years old, and even now do you have the courage to stand up to these murderous Taliban, I don’t think so. Before you being so critical of this brave young girl, think about it and should be more magnanimous in your writing comments of those who has achieved some thing positive for the country in the world community. We can’t close our eyes from being part of this globe which is shrinking technologically every day.


  • saqibtahir
    Oct 10, 2014 - 11:22PM

    Congratulations to both Malala ana Kailash. They made a history.

    I hope both India and Pakistan will legislate to end child slavery /labor and to make child education compulsory and child marriages a serious crime.
    There are millions of children in these two country who are forced to work as domestic helpers or bonded laborers. I hope Nobel prize to Malala and Kailash will bring awareness among upper and middle classes in these two countries about the evil of child labor.


  • Raj - USA
    Oct 11, 2014 - 6:34AM

    @Naeem Khan:
    Congratulations and my best wishes to you. You and all Pakistanis should be proud of Malala.


  • Alter Ego
    Oct 14, 2014 - 2:37PM

    @Naeem Khan:
    Can you please name one school that has been opened by Malala ?
    As for blogging plenty of child prodigies master programming at a young age.
    They dont get noble prizes, peace noble prizes are about what you have done for others not what you have accomplished for yourself.
    Like Nelsen Mendella,Martin Luther King,Eidhi and countless others .
    Can you please tell me what Malala has done for education in Pakistan ?


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