I Am Malala

The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban


By Malala Yousafzai

With Christina Lamb

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As seen on Netflix with David Letterman

“I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday.”

When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.

Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she became a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I AM MALALA is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

I AM MALALA will make you believe in the power of one person’s voice to inspire change in the world.






Henna decorations of calculus and chemical formulae on Malala’s hand, instead of the traditional flowers and butterflies.


Birmingham, England, June 2015

Two years have passed since my book came out, and three years since the October morning when I was shot by the Taliban on a school bus on my way home from class. My family has been through many changes. We were plucked from our mountain valley in Swat, Pakistan, and transported to a brick house in Birmingham, England’s, second-biggest city. Sometimes it seems so strange that I want to pinch myself. I’m seventeen now and one thing that has not changed is that I still don’t like getting up in the morning. The most astonishing thing is that it’s my father whose voice wakes me up now. He gets up first every day and prepares breakfast for me, my mother, and my brothers, Atal and Khushal. He doesn’t let his work go unnoticed, of course, going on about how he squeezes fresh juice, fries eggs, heats flat bread, and takes the honey out of the cupboard. “It’s only breakfast!” I tease. For the first time in his life, he also does the shopping, although he hates doing it. The man who didn’t even know the price of a pint of milk is such a frequent visitor to the supermarket that he knows where everything is on the shelves! “I’ve become like a woman, a true feminist!” he says, and I jokingly throw things at him.

My brothers and I then all rush off to our different schools. And so does our mother, Toor Pekai, which truly is one of the biggest changes of all. She is attending a language center five days a week to learn how to read and write and also to speak English. My mother had no education and perhaps that was the reason that she always encouraged us to go to school. “Don’t wake up like me and realize what you missed years later,” she says. She faces so many challenges in her daily life because up until now she’s had difficulty communicating when she’s gone shopping, or to the doctor or the bank. Getting an education is helping her become more confident, so that she can speak up outside the home, not just inside it with us.

Two years ago I thought we would never feel settled here, but now Birmingham has started to feel like home. It will never be Swat, which I miss every day, but these days, when I travel to other places and return to this new house, it does feel like home. I have even stopped thinking about the constant rain, although I laugh when my friends here complain about the heat when it’s 68 or 77 degrees Fahrenheit. To me, that feels like spring. I am making friends at my new school, although Moniba is still my best friend and we Skype for hours at a time to catch up on everything. When she talks about the parties back in Swat, I so wish I were there. Sometimes I talk to Shazia and Kainat, the other two girls who were shot on the bus and are now at Atlantic College in Wales. It is hard for them being so far away and in such a different culture, but they know they have a great opportunity to fulfill their dreams of helping their communities.

The school system here is very different from the one we had in Pakistan. In my old school I was considered “the smart girl.” I had this idea that I would always be the smartest one and that whether I worked hard or not, I would always come in first. Here in the UK, the teachers expect more from their students. In Pakistan, we used to write long answers. You really could write anything you liked; sometimes the examiners would get tired and give up reading part of the way through but still give you high marks! In England, the questions are often longer than the answers. Perhaps the expectations in Pakistan were lower because it was so challenging just to be in school. We didn’t have good science labs, computers or libraries. All we had was a teacher with a whiteboard standing in front of the students and their textbooks. Back home I was considered a bookish girl because I had read eight or nine books. But when I came to the UK I met girls who had read hundreds. Now I realize I’ve read hardly anything at all, and I want to read all those hundreds of books. Next year I’ll do my GCSEs and then I will do my A levels and hope to go to university to study politics and philosophy.

I’m still hopeful that I can return to Swat and see my friends, my teachers, my school and my house again. Perhaps it will take time but I’m sure it will be possible one day. My dream is to return to the country where I was born and serve the people. I dream that one day I will be an influential politician in Pakistan. Sadly, Maulana Fazlullah, the man who was the head of the Swat Taliban who shot me, is now the head of the whole Pakistan Taliban. That has made it even riskier for me to return. But even if there were no threat, I believe that I must get an education to strengthen myself for the fight I will surely have against ignorance and terrorism. My plan is to learn more about history, to meet interesting people and listen to their opinions.

I’m very busy with school and events, but I have made friends and we chat on our breaks and at lunchtime. They like to talk about sports while I like reading Time and The Economist. Anyway, we don’t have much time—school here is a lot of work!

Thanks to the extraordinary doctors here, my health is good. When I first got out of hospital, I had physiotherapy once a week to help me heal, and I needed a lot of support. The doctors say that my facial nerve is now recovered up to 96 percent. The cochlear implant has helped my hearing and the doctors say that in the future they may come up with even newer, better technology. I don’t get headaches anymore and I play sports, though people still take care not to throw a ball at my head! I’m fairly good in some sports, like rounders and cricket, though of course my brothers disagree.

My brothers have settled in, though I fight with Khushal as much as ever. Atal makes us all laugh. He uses very dramatic language and is so full of energy that he makes us all tired.

Recently we had a fight because he took an iPod that had been given to me. “Malala, I have taken it as I know you already have two.” I said, “The thing is, you can’t take something without permission.”

Atal is very good at spontaneous tears, so he started crying. “I need something to enjoy my life,” he wailed. “I’m living in this house and it’s like a prison. Malala, people call you the bravest girl in the world but I say you are the cruelest girl in the world! You brought us here and you can’t even give me an iPod!”

Many of our friends back in Pakistan probably think we are very lucky to live in England in a nice, brick house and go to good schools. My father is education attaché for the Pakistan consulate and adviser for global education for the UN. It would be a dream life for many young, ambitious Pakistanis.

But when you are exiled from your homeland, where your fathers and forefathers were born and where you have centuries of history, it’s very painful. You can no longer touch the soil or hear the sweet sound of the rivers. Fancy hotels and meetings in palaces cannot replace the sense of home.

I see this so clearly with my mother. Physically she’s in Birmingham, but mentally she’s in Swat—her homesickness is horrible. Sometimes she spends more of her day talking on the phone to her family and friends in Swat than she does with us.

But recently the Royal Society of Medicine held a ceremony in London to honor the doctors who saved my life and my mother sat on stage for the first time, which was a really big thing for her.

All of us have been overwhelmed by the warm reception we have received around the world and the reaction to the book, which has helped people to understand our story.

When I get prizes I send the money to Swat to help children go to school or adults buy small businesses, like a shop or a taxi to drive so that they can earn money for their families. We have received many letters, even one from an elderly man in Japan who wrote, “I am an old poor man but I want to help,” and sent us a note for ten thousand yen without a return address so that we couldn’t thank him.

With the Malala Fund, my organization, I went to Kenya to build a school for the people of Maasai Mara. The people were amazing—tall and proud, wrapped in bright scarlet blankets and telling us stories I could hardly believe were real. They were even richer than our Pashtun tales. None of the older Maasai have been educated, but now all the children are going to school. It is not easy as the government only gives them free education up until grade eight. After that, they have to pay themselves.

The Maasai told us that until recently, a boy would be circumcised and then had to go into the bush to kill two or more lions and bring back the carcasses. The elders would then yank out the boy’s two front teeth—imagine how painful!—and if he didn’t cry he would become a Maasai warrior.

Today their customs have changed. They told us if they kill all the lions the wildlife will disappear, so now those who become warriors are those with higher education, not those who kill lions. They will even have women Maasai warriors. And they have stopped circumcising their women.

I spent my seventeenth birthday in Nigeria, showing solidarity with the schoolgirls abducted from their dormitory in the dead of night by Boko Haram militants in April. Those girls were my age and all had dreams of being doctors or teachers or scientists. They were very brave and special girls, as only 4 percent of girls in northern Nigeria finish school. The world easily moves on to other issues and I don’t want people to forget. We will have another Malala Fund project there.

As part of our advocacy work with the Malala Fund, we went to the White House to meet Barack Obama. We met with Michelle Obama and their elder daughter, Malia, and were given honey from the White House bees. Then we visited with President Obama in the Oval Office, which was quite small. He came out to receive us. He listened to us very attentively.

When we were invited to the White House we said we would accept the invitation on one condition. If it’s just a photo session we would not go—but if Obama would listen to what was in our hearts, then we would. The message came back: you are free to say whatever you wish. And so we did! It was quite a serious meeting. We talked about the importance of education. We discussed the United States’ role in supporting dictatorships and drone attacks in countries like Pakistan. I told him that instead of focusing on eradicating terrorism through war, he should focus on eradicating it through education.

In the last year I have worked tirelessly in my role as an education activist through the Malala Fund. I have traveled to the conflict-hit areas to raise awareness about the plight of children who are deprived of an education. I have started projects in Jordan, Pakistan, Kenya and Nigeria. I have spoken to world leaders and encouraged them to raise the education budgets of their countries and pushed powerful nations to give greater education aid to developing ones. We are growing our work every day, but I know there is so much left to do. I thank God that I have been given this platform to campaign for. This is now my life’s work, my mission and my dream.

Through the Malala Fund, I decided to advocate for the education of Syrian refugees in Jordan. I went to the Syrian border and witnessed scores of refugees fleeing into Jordan. They had walked through the desert to get there with just the clothes on their backs. Many children had no shoes. I broke down and cried as I witnessed their suffering. In the refugee settlements most of the children were not going to school. Sometimes there was no school. Sometimes it was unsafe to walk to school. And sometimes children were working instead of being educated because their father had been killed. I saw many children on the roadside in this hot, hot weather, asking for work, such as carrying heavy stones, in order to feed their families.

I just felt such pain in my heart. What is their sin, what have they done that they’ve had to migrate? Why are these innocent children suffering such hardship? Why are they deprived of school and a peaceful environment?

I met a girl called Mizune who was my age. Every day she goes from tent to tent trying to persuade people to send their children to school. She told me that she wants to be a journalist so she can help people understand what’s going on. I asked her, “If you could do anything what would you do?” and she said, “I want to see my home again and stop these wars.”

We spoke to many agencies and raised awareness about the plight of refugees to help increase support for them. We also started projects on the ground with the Malala Fund to help integrate Syrian refugees into schools in Jordan.

I am a refugee, too, forced to live far away from my own country. As my father says, we might be the world’s best-treated refugees, in a nice house with everything we need, but we still yearn for our homeland. So much has changed these past years but really I am the same old Malala who was going to school in Swat. My life has changed but I have not. If you were to ask my mother she would say, “Well, maybe Malala has become wiser but she’s still the same quarrelsome girl at home whose shirt is in one place, trousers in another, the same messy girl who’s always crying, ‘I haven’t done my homework!’” Some things, even if they are small, do stay the same.


The Day My World Changed

I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday.

One year ago I left my home for school and never returned. I was shot by a Taliban bullet and was flown out of Pakistan unconscious. Some people say I will never return home, but I believe firmly in my heart that I will. To be torn from the country that you love is not something to wish on anyone.

Now, every morning when I open my eyes, I long to see my old room full of my things, my clothes all over the floor, and my school prizes on the shelves. Instead I am in a country which is five hours behind my beloved homeland Pakistan and my home in the Swat Valley. But my country is centuries behind this one. Here there is any convenience you can imagine. Water running from every tap, hot or cold as you wish; lights at the flick of a switch, day and night, no need for oil lamps; ovens to cook on that don’t need anyone to go and fetch gas cylinders from the bazaar. Here everything is so modern one can even find food ready cooked in packets.

When I stand in front of my window and look out, I see tall buildings, long roads full of vehicles moving in orderly lines, neat green hedges and lawns, and tidy pavements to walk on. I close my eyes and for a moment I am back in my valley—the high snow-topped mountains, green waving fields and fresh blue rivers—and my heart smiles when it looks at the people of Swat. My mind transports me back to my school and there I am reunited with my friends and teachers. I meet my best friend Moniba and we sit together, talking and joking as if I had never left.

Then I remember I am in Birmingham, England.


The day when everything changed was Tuesday, 9 October 2012. It wasn’t the best of days to start with, as it was the middle of school exams, though as a bookish girl I didn’t mind them as much as some of my classmates.

That morning we arrived in the narrow mud lane off Haji Baba Road in our usual procession of brightly painted rickshaws sputtering diesel fumes, each one crammed with five or six girls. Since the time of the Taliban our school has had no sign and the ornamented brass door in a white wall across from the woodcutter’s yard gives no hint of what lies beyond.

For us girls that doorway was like a magical entrance to our own special world. As we skipped through, we cast off our headscarves like winds puffing away clouds to make way for the sun then ran helter-skelter up the steps. At the top of the steps was an open courtyard with doors to all the classrooms. We dumped our backpacks in our rooms then gathered for morning assembly under the sky, our backs to the mountains as we stood to attention. One girl commanded, “Assaan bash!” or “Stand at ease!” and we clicked our heels and responded, “Allah.” Then she said, “Hoo she yar!” or “Attention!” and we clicked our heels again. “Allah.”

The school was founded by my father before I was born, and on the wall above us KHUSHAL SCHOOL was painted proudly in red and white letters. We went to school six mornings a week, and as I was a fifteen-year-old in Year 9, my classes were spent chanting chemical equations or studying Urdu grammar; writing stories in English with morals like “Haste makes waste” or drawing diagrams of blood circulation—most of my classmates wanted to be doctors. It’s hard to imagine that anyone would see that as a threat. Yet, outside the door to the school lay not only the noise and craziness of Mingora, the main city of Swat, but also those like the Taliban who think girls should not go to school.

That morning had begun like any other, though a little later than usual. It was exam time, so school started at nine instead of eight, which was good, as I don’t like getting up and can sleep through the crows of the cocks and the prayer calls of the muezzin. First my father would try to rouse me. “Time to get up, Jani Mun,” he would say. This means “soulmate” in Persian, and he always called me that at the start of the day. “A few more minutes, Aba, please,” I’d beg, then burrow deeper under the quilt. Then my mother would come. “Pisho,” she would call. This means “cat” and is her name for me. At this point I’d realize the time and shout, “Bhabi, I’m late!” In our culture, every man is your “brother” and every woman your “sister.” That’s how we think of each other. When my father first brought his wife to school, all the teachers referred to her as “my brother’s wife,” or bhabi. That’s how it stayed from then on. We all call her bhabi now.

I slept in the long room at the front of our house, and the only furniture was a bed and a cabinet which I had bought with some of the money I had been given as an award for campaigning for peace in our valley and the right for girls to go to school. On some shelves were all the gold-colored plastic cups and trophies I had won for coming first in my class. Only a few times had I not come top—each time when I was beaten by my class rival Malka-e-Noor. I was determined it would not happen again.

The school was not far from my home and I used to walk, but since the start of last year I had been going with other girls by bus. It was a journey of just five minutes along the stinky stream, past the giant billboard for Dr. Humayun’s Hair Transplant Institute where we joked that one of our bald male teachers must have gone when he suddenly started to sprout hair. I liked the bus because I didn’t get as sweaty as when I walked, and I could chat with my friends and gossip with Usman Ali, the driver, who we called Bhai Jan, or “Brother.” He made us all laugh with his crazy stories.

I had started taking the bus because my mother was scared of me walking on my own. We had been getting threats all year. Some were in the newspapers, some were notes or messages passed on by people. My mother was worried about me, but the Taliban had never come for a girl and I was more concerned they would target my father, as he was always speaking out against them. His close friend and fellow campaigner Zahid Khan had been shot in the face in August on his way to prayers and I knew everyone was telling my father, “Take care, you’ll be next.”

Our street could not be reached by car, so coming home I would get off the bus on the road below by the stream and go through a barred iron gate and up a flight of steps. I thought if anyone attacked me it would be on those steps. Like my father I’ve always been a daydreamer, and sometimes in lessons my mind would drift and I’d imagine that on the way home a terrorist might jump out and shoot me on those steps. I wondered what I would do. Maybe I’d take off my shoes and hit him, but then I’d think if I did that there would be no difference between me and a terrorist. It would be better to plead, “OK, shoot me, but first listen to me. What you are doing is wrong. I’m not against you personally, I just want every girl to go to school.”

I wasn’t scared, but I had started making sure the gate was locked at night and asking God what happens when you die. I told my best friend Moniba everything. We’d lived on the same street when we were little and been friends since we were toddlers and we shared everything, Justin Bieber songs and Twilight movies, the best face-lightening creams. Her dream was to be a fashion designer although she knew her family would never agree to it, so she told everyone she wanted to be a doctor. It’s hard for girls in our society to be anything other than teachers or doctors if they can work at all. I was different—I never hid my desire when I changed from wanting to be a doctor to wanting to be an inventor or a politician. Moniba always knew if something was wrong. “Don’t worry,” I told her. “The Taliban have never come for a small girl.”

When our bus was called, we ran down the steps. The other girls all covered their heads before emerging from the door and climbing up into the back. The bus was actually what we call a dyna, a white Toyota TownAce truck with three parallel benches, one along either side and one in the middle. It was cramped with twenty girls and three teachers. I was sitting on the left between Moniba and a girl from the year below called Shazia Ramzan, holding our exam folders to our chests and our school bags under our feet.

After that it is all a bit hazy. I remember that inside the dyna was hot and sticky. The cooler days were late coming and only the faraway mountains of the Hindu Kush had a frosting of snow. The back where we sat had no windows, just thick plastic sheeting at the sides which flapped and was too yellowed and dusty to see through. All we could see was a little stamp of open sky out of the back and glimpses of the sun, at that time of day a yellow orb floating in the dust that streamed over everything.

I remember that the bus turned right off the main road at the army checkpoint as always and rounded the corner past the deserted cricket ground. I don’t remember any more.

In my dreams about the shooting my father is also in the bus and he is shot with me, and then there are men everywhere and I am searching for my father.

In reality what happened was we suddenly stopped. On our left was the tomb of Sher Mohammad Khan, the finance minister of the first ruler of Swat, all overgrown with grass, and on our right the snack factory. We must have been less than 200 meters from the checkpoint.

We couldn’t see in front, but a young man in light-colored clothes had stepped into the road and waved the van down.

“Is this the Khushal School bus?” he asked our driver. Usman Bhai Jan thought this was a stupid question, as the name was painted on the side. “Yes,” he said.

“I need information about some children,” said the man.

“You should go to the office,” said Usman Bhai Jan.

As he was speaking another young man in white approached the back of the van. “Look, it’s one of those journalists coming to ask for an interview,” said Moniba. Since I’d started speaking at events with my father to campaign for girls’ education and against those like the Taliban who want to hide us away, journalists often came, even foreigners, though not like this in the road.

The man was wearing a peaked cap and looked like a college student. He swung himself onto the tailboard at the back and leaned in right over us.

“Who is Malala?” he demanded.

No one said anything, but several of the girls looked at me. I was the only girl with my face not covered.

That’s when he lifted up a black pistol. I later learned it was a Colt .45. Some of the girls screamed. Moniba tells me I squeezed her hand.

My friends say he fired three shots, one after another. The first went through my left eye socket and out under my left shoulder. I slumped forward onto Moniba, blood coming from my left ear, so the other two bullets hit the girls next to me. One bullet went into Shazia’s left hand. The third went through her left shoulder and into the upper right arm of Kainat Riaz.

My friends later told me the gunman’s hand was shaking as he fired.

By the time we got to the hospital my long hair and Moniba’s lap were full of blood.


Who is Malala? I am Malala and this is my story.

Part One
Before the Taliban


On Sale
Oct 8, 2013
Page Count
336 pages

Malala Yousafzai

About the Author

Malala Yousafzai is a cofounder and board member of Malala Fund. Malala began her campaign for education at age eleven, when she anonymously blogged for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Inspired by her father's activism, Malala soon began advocating publicly for girls' education, attracting international media attention and awards. At age fifteen, she was attacked by the Taliban for speaking out. Malala recovered in the United Kingdom and continued her fight for girls. In 2013, she founded Malala Fund with her father, Ziauddin. A year later, Malala received the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her efforts to see every girl complete twelve years of free, safe, and quality education. She is a graduate of Oxford University, with a degree in philosophy, politics, and economics. Malala's books include I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Educationand Changed the World, We Are Displaced, and Malala's Magic Pencil

Mariam Quraishi is an illustrator and designer based in New York City. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, she works in watercolor and gouache. When she’s not thinking about books you can find her day dreaming about the flowers from her hometown in Karachi, Pakistan  and tending to her many orchid plants. Mariam is also the illustrator of the picture book ONE WISH: Fatima Al-Fihri and the World’s Oldest University. You can visit her online at mariamquraishi.com. 


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