Extremists ‘afraid of education’ says schoolgirl shot by Taliban

A Pakistani schoolgirl shot by the Taliban for championing women’s rights has told the United Nations she was attacked because extremists fear the power of education.

Malala Yousafzai, who has been recovering from last year’s attack in the UK, told the youth assembly there were millions who had been attacked or killed across the world because of the terrorists’ fear of “books and pens”.

She called on those present to take up “the weapon of knowledge” in their campaign for access to education for all children around the world.

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Today is Malala’s 16th birthday – declared Malala Day – in what was the first public address by the teenager in front of more than 500 youth delegates at the UN headquarters in New York.

As she took to the dais, there was a standing ovation and cheers of delight for the young girl who cheated an assassin’s bullet following an attack on her school bus in the Swat valley in north-western Pakistan last year.

In a powerful address, she said: “We realise the importance of our voice when we are silenced and in the same way when we were in Swat, in the north of Pakistan, we realised the importance of pens and books when we saw their guns.

“The saying ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ was true. The extremists were, and they are, afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them.

“The power of the voice of women frightens them, and that is why they killed 14 innocent medical students in the recent attack in Quetta.”

She added: “They (the extremists) were and they are afraid of change, afraid of the equality that we will bring into our society.”