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The Bravest Girl In The World

Aired October 13, 2013 - 19:00   ET




AMANPOUR: Tonight, a question. Where does courage come from? Real bravery -- the sort that changes the world. In just a moment, before a live audience here in New York -- some of them even here on the stage with me -- I'll be talking to 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai, along with the remarkable man who raised her, her father, Ziauddin. And my mission is to find out what made one young girl in a remote corner of Pakistan decide, "I will stand up to the Taliban." What gave Malala the grit to defy some of the most murderous men on earth?


MALALA YOUSAFZAI, PAKISTANI GIRL THAT THE TALIBAN TRIED TO KILL: I have rights. I have the right of education. I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Before the whole world knew her name, Malala was simply a school girl, a small child with big dreams.

M. YOUSAFZAI: I want to become a doctor. It's my own dream. But my father told me that you have to become a politician. But then I don't like politics.

AMANPOUR: The story of Malala is that of an ordinary girl with extraordinary gifts.

M. YOUSAFZAI: Sum of numbers, 280 plus --

AMANPOUR: She has intelligence, grace and poise far beyond her years.

M. YOUSAFZAI: So I told that I must stand up for my rights -- the right of education, the right for peace -- so I did it.

AMANPOUR: No one was prouder of Malala than the head of her school -- her own father, Ziauddin.

ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI, MALALA'S FATHER: When I saw her for the first time and I looked into her eyes, I fell in love with her, believe me. I love her. I love her. AMANPOUR: Their home is in Mingora, the largest town in Pakistan's lush Swat Valley. It's an area renowned for its beauty, ringed by mountains and fed by fresh water streams. It was an idealist life.

And then -- came the Taliban. The reign of terror began in 2008. Taliban soldiers took over the valley and imposed an extreme form of Sharia law. Anyone who dared to defy it was whipped. Many were murdered.

Malala saw the bodies of family friends left as terrifying exhibits in the town square. And she feared for her father who had spoken out against the Taliban.

M. YOUSAFZAI: Sometimes I think that I will hide in the bathroom and I will call to police and they will come and they will save my father.

AMANPOUR: One night the Taliban leader took over the local radio station and issued an ominous new order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): After January 15th girls must not got to school.

AMANPOUR: The Yousafzais were forced to close their school and along with thousands of others fled for their lives. Finally after months of fierce battles against the Taliban, the Pakistani military claimed victory in the Swat Valley. Malala and her family came home. She went back to school but this time with a target on her back. One day a Taliban boarded her makeshift school bus. The man shot Malala in the head.

She fought for her life, first in Pakistan, then in England where she was flown for extensive surgery. Now, the whole world knew who she was and what she had fought for. There were rallies and protests, prayers and speeches across Pakistan and throughout the world.

ANGELINA JOLIE, U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY: They shot her at point blank range in the head and made her stronger.

AMANPOUR: Miraculously the assassin's bullet didn't penetrate her brain. The doctors saved her life. And in a matter of weeks, Malala reassured the world that she would once again raise her voice.

M. YOUSAFZAI: Today you can see that I'm alive. God has given me this new life.

AMANPOUR: The man who shot her is still at large. And just this week, the Taliban, once again, threatened to kill her. But in a speech before the United Nations in July, on her 16th birthday, Malala said she has no fear.

M. YOUSAFZAI: They thought that the bullet would silence us, but they failed. And out of this silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change my aim and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life, except this. Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, fervor and courage was born.



AMANPOUR: Malala Yousafzai and Ziauddin, welcome to the 92nd Street Y here in New York.

Z. YOUSAFZAI: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Let me take you back to that incredible day, a year ago. Do you remember, Malala, what happened to you on that bus, when somebody asked your friends, "Who is Malala?"

M. YOUSAFZAI: He did not give me time to answer his question. And my friend told me, my best friend Moniba at this time, you just squeeze my hand, you just pushed it with force, and you did not say anything and then in the next few seconds, he fired two bullets. One bullet hit me in the left side of my forehead just above here. And it went down through my neck and into my shoulder. And I think I was hit by only one bullet. And it also affected my ear drum, so now I have problem in listening as well. It also cut down my facial nerve.

But still, if you look at it, it's a miracle. My brain is saved. My spinal cord is saved. Everything is fine. I am alive. And I still can talk. I can smile. So I thank God for that.

AMANPOUR: Your father has been so close to you all your life. It must be still so difficult for you to listen to the retelling of this story.

Z. YOUSAFZAI: You want to think of it, it is very difficult because in this universe, she's the most precious person for me in my life. And we are not only father and daughter, we are friends.

AMANPOUR: But what was it like when you woke up, finally after all that trauma, what -- what did you discover in that hospital room? And who was with you? What was it like to be awake again?

M. YOUSAFZAI: When I woke up, I realized that now I am not in Pakistan. The nurses and doctors, everyone was speaking in English. Then, the first thing I did was that I thanked Allah. I thanked God that I was surviving. I was living.

And you know I cannot explain it how happy I was -- how much happy. I cannot explain it because I was very happy when I saw myself alive. And when I saw that I am living and I am surviving. And then, I was thinking about my father and my mother as well. And I could not speak at that time because there was a tube in my neck that was breathing for me.

So I asked for a pen and paper from the nurse. And I wrote to many doctors, I did it a lot of times. And I wrote to them, "Where is my father and my mother." And so they told me that "Your father is safe. And he will come soon as soon as possible."

And the second question that was really important for me, and about which I was thinking, that who will pay for me? Because I don't have money. And I was -- I also knew that my father is running the school. But the buildings of the schools are on rent. The home is on rent. And he cannot sell his school. So that's simple.

And then, I thought like, ok, so your father has land in village. He can sell it. But I said it is very few money, a few amount of money. Then I was thinking he might asking people for loan.

So that's why I thought that -- I didn't know that that the whole world was praying for me and are still praying for me. They are supporting me. And now I believe that when people pray, when people pray to God, for life, God gives. God is really honest. God listens to his peoples' voice.

AMANPOUR: So what do you think it is about you that caused the whole world to pray for you and the whole world to light candles when you were wounded and the whole world to wish for you to be here today?

M. YOUSAFZAI: I think I must ask the whole world, why did they pray for me? And the first thing is that it shows humanity. It shows love. It shows friendship. And it shows harmony because not only the people of Pakistan, not only Muslims, not only Pashtuns, but everyone prayed for me. It does not matter what religion they had. They were Christians. They were Jews. They did not even have religion. But they prayed for me and they prayed for my new life.

AMANPOUR: Do you think though that it was -- not just because you are a lovely girl, but because you had a fundamental mission and that you spoke out about it in the most unusual way. What was it that you were thinking before all of this? What was your, you know, your life about in terms of education and in terms of being prepared to defy the very violent opposition that you were facing?

M. YOUSAFZAI: At that time when we were facing terrorism in Swat and especially in 2009, the Radio Mullah, which we call him, he announced or radio that from the 15th of January, 2009 no girl is allowed to go to school.

AMANPOUR: No girls to school?

M. YOUSAFZAI: No girl is allowed to go to school. And if she goes, then you know what we can do. That was his threat. What they did, they used to flock girls. They used to flock women. They also slaughtered people in the squares of Mingora. They treated people like animals. At that time, I did not want to be silent because I had to live in that situation forever. And it was a better idea because otherwise they were going to kill us. So it was a better idea to speak and then be killed.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you a difficult question. This was your teenage daughter, she was really a young girl.


AMANPOUR: And she is just described this enormous public profile that she had. That she spoke, it's so unusual for girls or anybody to defy the Taliban most particularly girls in that manner. And you encouraged her.

Z. YOUSAFZAI: Yes, of course.

AMANPOUR: Do you feel any remorse, any regret, any wish that you hadn't made her so public and such a big target?

Z. YOUSAFZAI: No, never. Remember, I am a Pashtun Pakistani. I can never compromise on freedom. My approach is I think that it's better to live for one day to speak for your right than to live for hundred years in such a slavery. I will never put my -- my neck into the yoke of slavery.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Later in the program, the bravest girl in the world is still just a teenager to her mom.

M. YOUSAFZAI: And whenever I used to -- I used to go to the market with her, she used to tell me, "Cover your face. See, that man is looking at you. That man is looking at you." I said, "Mom, I'm also looking at them. It doesn't matter."




AMANPOUR: You wanted to be a doctor. But your dad wanted you to be a politician. You wrote very nicely about that in your book. And you said, "No, I don't want to be a politician." This was before.

Now you write that one of your heroes, one of the people you admire the most was Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's first female prime minister and also someone brutally murdered by the Taliban. Tell me about Benazir Bhutto and what she means to you and do you want to be prime minister of Pakistan?

M. YOUSAFZAI: When I was in Swat, and it is the culture that a woman can only be a doctor or a teacher, if she gets education. Otherwise she has to be a housewife and feed the children and live a life according to what men says in just the four boundaries of a house.

I was thinking of becoming a doctor because everyone in our classroom said they want to become a doctor. But when I was looking at the situation at Swat, when I saw that government is not taking an action and when I saw that the responsible people are not saying anything. And then later on, I knew that -- I realized that becoming a doctor, I can only help a small community. But by becoming a politician, I can help my whole country.

I want to become a prime minister of Pakistan and I think it is really good -- because through politics I can help my whole country. I can be the doctor of the whole country and I can help children to get education, to go to school. I can improve the quality of education. And I can spend much of the money from the budget on education.

AMANPOUR: You still have huge dreams. They didn't take that away from you.

M. YOUSAFZAI: They only can shoot a body. They cannot shoot my dreams. And I think my dreams are living.

The important thing -- the important thing is that they shot me because they wanted to tell me that we want to kill you and stop your campaign. They did a mistake -- the biggest mistake.

Now I'm not afraid of death. First, I might have been. But now I'm totally not afraid of death. And when I look at support of people then I'm sure that this cause is never going to die. And we will see that a day will come, every child -- whether girl or boy, whether black or white, whether Christian or Muslim -- he or she will be going to school, inch'Allah.


AMANPOUR: Still to come, what happens to a young Pakistani girl when Buckingham Palace comes calling?

The Queen of England has invited you to the palace. You're going, right?




AMANPOUR: Malala, your mother, Tet Perdesh (ph) she was very modest. She wore the full burka all the time. She was conservative. But she was a big powerhouse, and remains in your family. Did she also support what you were doing?

M. YOUSAFZAI: She supported both me and my father in our campaign for education because she wanted to see peace in Swat. And she said what you are doing is right. And other thing is that she supported us in everything but she was just telling me that, "Cover your face, men are looking at you."

Whenever I used to -- I used to go to the market with her, she used to tell me, "Cover your face. See, that man is looking at you, that man is looking at you." I said, "Mom, I'm also looking at them. It doesn't matter."

AMANPOUR: You're 16, really wise, what do you do that's girly? What do you like in movies, music, books?

M. YOUSAFZAI: The first and the important thing in my life is that I raise my voice against my brothers. And because they are still brothers and I'm like the only daughter. So it is very necessity to fight against them and to raise our voice against them.

And other than that, when I was in Pakistan, I liked western music like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez. But when I came here -- when I came to UK then I was missing my own Pashtun music and Urdu music that's why now I listen to Pashtun sounds a lot.

AMANPOUR: You know, the Queen of England has invited you to the palace. You're going, right?

M. YOUSAFZAI: Yes, I'm going because it is the order of the Queen.


AMANPOUR: In a moment, a final word.



M. YOUSAFZAI: I would like to tell every girl in U.K. and America, in the country, in the developed countries where education is available to them, go to schools and realize it's importance before it is snatched from you as we have been suffered from that situation. So going to school, doing homework on time, being good to teachers and being good to each other, it is a very important part of life. So go to school.

AMANPOUR: I need to introduce you to my son.

Thank you, Ziauddin.

M. YOUSAFZAI: Welcome.

ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI, FATHER OF MALALA YOUSAFZAI: And thanks to all the people who are here.

AMANPOUR: And thank you, Malala.

Z. YOUSAFZAI: Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you all. Thank you very much.

M. YOUZAFZAI: Thank you.

Z. YOUSAFZAI: Thank you very much for being here.