Malala continues fight against Taliban in autobiography

Malala Yousafzai, a Nobel Peace Prize candidate, publishes autobiography as part of ongoing fight for women's education

Malala Yousafzai gives a speech after receiving the RAW in WAR Anna Politkovskaya Award at the Southbank Center in central London Friday.
Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography was published Tuesday, detailing her campaign against the Taliban for women’s education. The book’s release comes amid speculation that she may become the youngest-ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, to be announced Friday.

Co-written with British journalist Christina Lamb, "I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban" recounts the 16-year-old's terror as two gunmen boarded her school bus last October in Swat, Pakistan, and shot her in the head.

"My friends say he fired three shots, one after another," she writes.

The autobiography talks about Yousafzai’s life as an activist under the Taliban's brutal rule in northwestern Pakistan in the mid-2000s, when the group banned female education and bombed local schools. The book also hints at her ambition to enter Pakistani politics, and talks about her father's brief flirtation with Islamic fundamentalism as a youngster.

Yousafzai describes how she received death threats in the months before her attempted assassination.

"At night I would wait until everyone was asleep," she writes. "Then I'd check every single door and window."

Her resolve to fight for women's education in Pakistan was unfailing, she says. "I don't know why, but hearing I was being targeted did not worry me. It seemed to me that everyone knows they will die one day," she writes. "So I should do whatever I want to do."

The book describes public floggings by the Taliban, their ban on television, dancing and music, and the Yousafzai family's decision to flee Swat along with nearly one million others in 2009 amid heavy fighting between armed groups and Pakistani troops.

It later details her surgeons' frantic battle to save her life, and her panic at waking up in a hospital in Birmingham, England, thousands of miles from home.

A new home

The young author goes on to describe the family's homesickness and her views on life in England, including her horror when she first saw scantily-clad girls going out at night in Birmingham, and her amazement at seeing men and women socializing openly in coffee shops.

She has struggled to make friends at her English school, she says, and she still spends hours talking to her friends in Swat using Skype.

However, she adds there is also much to like about life in England:  "People follow the rules, they respect policemen and everything happens on time," she writes. "I see women having jobs we couldn't imagine in Swat."

Like any ordinary 16-year-old schoolgirl, in what has so far been an extraordinary life, she revealed she is a fan of Canadian pop sensation Justin Bieber and the "Twilight" series of vampire romance novels.

Praise for her father

The book is full of praise for her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, and describes how he worked to set up his own school and risked his life by speaking out against the Taliban.

She angrily rejects criticism that he pushed her too hard to campaign alongside him – "like a tennis dad trying to create a champion" – or has used her as a mouthpiece, "as if I don't have my own mind."

The book reveals that her father briefly, when he was a teenager, briefly considered joining the fight in neighboring Afghanistan against the Soviet invasion in 1979.

She also acknowledges that she, like her father, has been the target of considerable criticism at home, with many regarding her as a stooge of the West.

She frequently mentions the late former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto as a heroine, and makes clear her ambition to one day return to her homeland and become a politician – despite continued threats from the Taliban that they will attack her again if given the chance.

"I was spared for a reason – to use my life for helping people," she writes.

Al Jazeera and Agence France Presse

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