Malala Yousafzai Girl shot by Taliban acts to save pupils from attacks

Malala: take my name off school or pupils will be at risk
  • @AndrewBuncombe

The teenage activist who was shot and wounded by the Taliban for working to promote girls' education has urged the Pakistan government not to rename a college in her honour, as she fears the link would put other students' lives at risk.

Malala Yousafzai, 15, who is being treated for her wounds at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, contacted Pakistani officials and asked them to revert to the college's old name after students demonstrated and said they feared they could be attacked.

Last week, up to 1,800 students at the Saidu Sharif Degree College for Girls tore down posters of Malala and protested over the decision to rename the establishment after her. They said they feared that by doing so, the authorities would make the school and its students a prime target for the same kind of Taliban gunmen who shot and tried to kill the teenager in October. Such was the level of anger and fear that officials were obliged to close the school a week early, ahead of the winter holidays.

Yesterday, officials in Pakistan confirmed that in the aftermath of the protests, Malala had telephoned from the UK to ask them to change the college's name back.

Kamran Rehman Khan, a government official in the Swat valley, told the Dawn newspaper: "She called me last week and asked that the name of the college be changed and reverted back to its original name or any other name except [hers].

"The protesters were not against Malala but they feared that naming of the college could pose a serious security threat to them as well as their institution."

He said of Malala's call from the hospital: "I think it was very good of her. There was no threat to the college but she understood the girls' unease and sense of insecurity."

Malala, who became well-known when she kept a diary for the BBC after the Taliban seized control of the Swat valley in late 2007, was shot on 9 October along with two of her classmates as they returned home from school. The Taliban claimed that it had targeted the teenager because of her role as a champion of children's education and because of her "Western" views. The injuries sustained by her friends were not life threatening.

While the Taliban claimed there was justification within Islam for such an assault and that if she survived it would try again to kill her, there was deep revulsion and anger within Pakistan.

While military doctors carried out the initial surgery to save Malala's life after a bullet passed through her head and lodged in her shoulder, experts agreed that she could get better longer-term treatment overseas. The Pakistani authorities are paying the costs of the teenager's treatment at the NHS hospital, where her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, is with her.

Earlier this week, Time magazine announced that Malala was a runner-up to US President Barack Obama as its "Person of the Year".

A spokeswoman for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital said yesterday that Malala was responding well to treatment and making good progress. She said it was expected that her cranial reconstruction surgery would begin at the end of next month.