At 14, Malala Yousafzai had already become one of Pakistan’s most prominent advocates for female education. Her blog attracted so much attention in her home country abroad that, despite her young age, she found herself on the Taliban “hit list” for promoting views contrary to the group’s strict interpretation of Islam.
Earlier this week, while Malala and her classmates were boarding a bus on their way home from school, a member of the Taliban walked up to her and shot her at point-blank range in the neck and head. Another girl on the bus with her was also wounded.
Malala Yousufzai was in the intensive care unit at a military hospital in Peshawar, recovering from an early morning surgery to remove a bullet from her neck a day after the attack. A Pakistani official said doctors thought she was out of danger.
News of the attack spread quickly all over the world helped in part by social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Later that same day, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the top Pakistani military official, released a statement saying that by targeting Malala the terrorists were uniting the entire population of Pakistan against their cause. He added that not only was Malala a strong advocate for the education of women and girls, she has grown to become a symbol of courage for her countrymen.
He vowed the military would not bow to terrorists like those who shot the young activist.
“We will fight, regardless of the cost we will prevail,” he said.
He also visited the hospital to get a first-hand account of her condition, the statement said.
According to the Associated Press, Kayani’s statement came as somewhat a surprise; the reclusive general rarely makes public pronouncements, even on matters dealing with the military.
Malala first rose to prominence when she began writing a blog at age 11 about her experience living under Taliban rule. Originally her BBC-hosted blog was written anonymously, but she chose to reveal her identity in order to become a more effective advocate for universal access to education.
In support of Malala and in protest of the attack, private schools all over Swat Valley, where Malala was shot, closed their doors on Wednesday. Ahmed Shah, the chairman of an umbrella organization for the country’s private schools, said that it was a gesture to show that her community stood in solidarity with Malala.
The Taliban took near total control of the Swat Valley after several infiltration attempts that started in 2007. The Pakistani military retook control of the region in a massive military operation in 2009.
Malala remains in critical condition as of Thursday, October 11.