Malala Yousafzai: Pakistani teen shot by Taliban opens new library in Birmingham

 

A teenager who was shot by the Taliban after campaigning for women's rights declared herself an honorary Brummie today as she officially opened a new £188 million civic library.

Malala Yousafzai was warmly applauded by a 1,000-strong crowd outside the Library of Birmingham as she thanked the people of the city for their support during her ordeal.

The 16-year-old schoolgirl was flown from Pakistan to the UK for emergency treatment last October after being shot in the head by a Taliban gunman.

Hailing pens and books as "weapons" that can defeat terrorism, Malala began a speech outside the library by addressing the crowd as her "fellow Brummies".

Speaking clearly and loudly, the teenager, who now attends a school in Birmingham, said: "It is an honour for me to be here in Birmingham, the beating heart of England.

"Birmingham is very special for me because it is here that I found myself alive, seven days after I was shot.

"It is now my second home, after my beloved Pakistan.

"The doctors and nurses of this town worked hard to help me recover.

"The teachers of this town strived to rehabilitate my educational career, and the great people of this city gave me great moral support."

Malala, who unveiled a stainless steel plaque marking the library's official opening, informed the crowd that she had challenged herself to read thousands of books.

The teenager added: "Pens and books are the weapons that defeat terrorism.

"I truly believe the only way we can create global peace is through educating not only our minds, but our hearts and our souls."

Malala, who was given a library membership card after finishing her speech, was targeted by the Taliban after campaigning for girls' right to attend school.

Surgeons who treated Malala said she came within inches of death when a bullet grazed her brain.

Malala, who is also due to receive the International Children's Peace Prize later this week in recognition of her dedication to children's rights, used her seven-minute speech to call for peace and development in Nigeria, Syria and Somalia.

"We must speak up for the children of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan who are suffering from terrorism, poverty, child labour and child trafficking," she said.

"Let us help them through our voice, action and charity. Let us help them to read books and go to school.

"And let us not forget that even one book, one pen, one child and one teacher can change the world."

The Library of Birmingham, located in Centenary Square, has a distinctive skin of metal hoops and replaces the city's nearby Brutalist Central Library, which opened in 1974.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey also attended the ceremony to take the wraps off the 333,000 sq ft library, which is covered in interlocking metal circles.

More than three million people are expected to use the library - designed by Dutch firm Mecanoo Architecten - in its first year.

Speaking shortly before Malala addressed the crowd gathered outside the library's main entrance, Mr Vaizey described the new building as an "ode" to the book, the 21st century, and Birmingham itself.

The Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, Ian Ward, said the structure, which has a 3,000-tonne steel frame, represented the UK's largest public sector cultural project.

"With his building we have a new iconic image," he said. "This is a very special moment for Birmingham and its people."

The library's architect, Francine Houben, regards it as a "People's Palace" which will stimulate knowledge and support self-development.

"Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe, it has a rich history and many identities," she said. "This building is inspired by these qualities."

Housing Birmingham's civic archives and more than a million books, including 128 volumes printed before 1501, the library is encased in a metal filigree facade.

The 10-level library also links up with the adjoining Birmingham Repertory Theatre and has an outdoor amphitheatre providing a performance space for music, drama and poetry readings.

Other unusual features include two garden terraces on the third and seventh floors designed to provide visitors with space to unwind, socialise and learn.

PA

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