Vigil held for shot schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai


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The Independent Online

Women's rights campaigners have staged a candlelit vigil in support of the 14-year-old schoolgirl shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in Pakistan.

Around 20 well-wishers gathered in Birmingham's Victoria Square to show their support for Malala Yousafzai, who remains in a stable condition at the city's Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Officials at the hospital have declined to comment on reports that the teenager has been able to move her limbs, but have confirmed that her family members remain in Pakistan.

A brief statement issued by the hospital read: "Malala Yousafzai's condition remains stable.

"She spent a third comfortable night in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham and doctors are pleased with her progress so far.

"The various specialist consultants from both the Queen Elizabeth and Birmingham Children's hospitals continue to assess her on a daily basis."

The vigil for Malala, attended by members of Birmingham City Council, was organised by Women2Gether and the Amina Women's Group, which both work to empower women.

Many of those present at the vigil held candles, while others held banners proclaiming "I am Malala" in solidarity with the injured teenager, who was shot as she made her way home from school in north-west Pakistan.

Labour councillor Mariam Khan, who represents the Washwood Heath area of Birmingham, said she had decided to attend the vigil in a personal capacity and on behalf of her community.

Ms Khan told reporters: "Everybody should have the right to freedom and we are standing in solidarity with Malala.

"Education is one of the key things that takes people forward. I went to school and I went to university and to think that there are people fighting just to go to school puts things into perspective."

During the vigil, a statement was read out by a member of the Amina Women's Group, who declined to give her name.

The statement began: "Brave Malala said what so many of us wish to say but we are too afraid.

"A girl of 14 spoke out for the rights of women and girls in a region where fundamentalism is fighting to take hold.

"For this she was shot in the head. Like so many around the world, we are moved and inspired by her bravery and wish her and her friends a speedy recovery."

Malala was flown to the UK on Monday after being attacked for promoting the education of girls and criticising Taliban militants.

More than 600 people from around the world have posted messages of support for the schoolgirl on the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust website.

Doctors at the hospital, which has a decade's experience of treating British military casualties, are now planning the reconstructive operations needed to treat her injuries.

The teenager was shot with two classmates as they made their way home from school in Swat, in the north-west of Pakistan, in what Foreign Secretary William Hague described as a "barbaric attack".

Malala was saved by neurosurgeons at a Pakistani military hospital and has since been in intensive care.