With a shy smile, a wave and a hug for the nurses who helped save her life, Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai left hospital in Britain today.
The 15-year-old, who was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman after campaigning for women’s rights to education in her native country, is said to have made an excellent recovery following the point blank assassination attempt but now faces months of recuperation and further reconstructive surgery on her skull.
Her father Ziauddin said his daughter was well on the road to recovery. “She is quite well and happy on returning home — as we all are,” he said,
The teenager has become a powerful symbol in the fight for universal female schooling in Pakistan. She was seriously injured in the attack in October whilst travelling on a bus back from school in the Swat Valley in the north of the country where militants accused her of promoting “Western thinking”. But walking unaided on Thursday, she was discharged by doctors who paid tribute to her strength and bravery.
Medical director Dr Dave Rosser at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital where she has received treatment said the youngster would benefit from being with her parents Ziauddin and Toorpekai and brothers Khushal and Atul at their temporary home in the West Midlands.
“Malala is a strong young woman and has worked hard with the people caring for her to make excellent progress in her recovery,” he said.
Her case has been highlighted by celebrities including Madonna and Angelina Jolie who called for her to be awarded the Nobel peace prize. Candlelit vigils have been held across the world as well as in Birmingham where she was brought for treatment six days after the shooting.
Malala underwent an operation to remove the bullet from her skull in Pakistan but was then airlifted to the UK where she has been under the care of specialist neurosurgeons.
The bullet entered her skull, grazing her brain. Hospital officials would not confirm whether she was currently being schooled but confirmed she was able to read and write in both Urdu and English.
Before she is readmitted next month she will live. She will then continue her treatment as a weekly outpatient and is now expected to stay in Britain permanently.
There has been heightened security at the hospital following threats by militants. Malala has been taking home leave since before Christmas. Last month she was visited by Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari whose government has promised to pay for all her treatment.
Her father, who ran a private school, has been appointed education attache for three years at the Pakistani consulate in Birmingham with the option of an extension for a further two years. “I thank the whole of Pakistan and all other well-wishers for praying for her and our family,” said Mr Yousafzai. “What I am doing here is all temporary, and God willing we all will return to our homeland,” he added.
In Malala’s hometown of Mingora, there were no public celebration but cousins handed out sweets to neighbours after hearing the news from Birmingham. “Obviously we all are jubilant over her rapid recovery, and we hope that she will soon fully recover and would return back to her home town at an appropriate time,” said Mahmoodul Hasan who runs a private school. But there are still fears for her safety. “I would say the real happy day will be when we all get confidence that there would be no threat of attack on any Malala of the country in the future,” said Azizul Hasan
Last month several hundred students in Mingora protested against plans to have their school named after Malala, fearing it would make the institution a target for the Taliban.