Malala’s friends: Shot with her, left behind to face Taliban - now get a new life in UK
There is few in the world today who have not heard of Malala Yousufzai – the girl who survived the Taliban.
The youngest Nobel laureate in the world, Malala was shot in her head point-black by the Talibans in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. While she attained world wide fame after that terrible day, two of her friends Kainat Riaz and Shazia Rehman who suffered grave injuries as well went back into obscurity.
On that day in October 2012, Taliban gunmen surrounded the 15 year old school-girls returning from a Chemistry exam. The Taliban had banned women’s education in the valley and the girls paid a hefty price for defying that edict.
One of the gunmen asked for Malala by name – she had by then become a vociferous campaigner for education of the girl child.
After shooting her right on the head, they shot Kainat in the shoulder and Shazia in the hand and shoulder, before going on a bullet shooting spree.
Kainat ran home, wounded, petrified and convinced that Malala was dead. She would have certainly died in the grossly ill-equipped government hospital had she not been air-lifted to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, UK.
While Malala became an international hero, the other two girls soon became a foot note in the incident – forgotten and obscure. Once they returned home to Swat Valley to recuperate, the neighbours did not take kindly to them, reports The Telegraph.
In fear of another Taliban attack, they were neglected and treated as outcasts.
While the world may have forgotten their contribution and the horror they faced, one person did not – Malala herself.
Not only did she mention them in her Nobel acceptance speech, but when a scholarship was extended to her by the prestigious UWC Atlantic College, South Wales, Malala said she was already well-settled in Birmingham and requested the offer to be extended to her two friends.
With the help of ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the duo reached the shores of UK, alone and thousands of miles away from their family, both geographically and culturally.
They were unknown in UK, unlike the local fame they had in Pakistan. Though they attended conferences in Paris and Washington, their popularity was nowhere near as endemic as Malala.
But they happen to be in touch with her quite a lot and profess to follow the lead set by her to ensure education for all till the last of their days.
While Malala cannot return to the Swat Valley because of persistent threats, these two girls return twice a year. They say that things are changing in the troubled areas of Pakistan, slowly but surely – there are even some unisex classrooms.
Dubbed as the ‘Pakistani twin’ by their teachers, they plan to return to Pakistan as soon as their education is over, and contribute towards the cause of education there.
Like her father taught her, Kainat has come out of her shell of ‘what people will think’ and they are both determined to ask questions of anyone reprimanding them for alleged infractions against their culture.