Wednesday, October 17, 2012

UK doctors hopeful for Malala Yousafzai


Doctors at the UK hospital where 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai is being treated after a Taliban gun attack say they are hopeful she can recover. The Pakistani girl, who arrived in Birmingham on Monday, had a bullet removed from her skull last week. The Taliban said they targeted her for "promoting secularism".

Hospital Medical Director Dr David Rosser said some UK colleagues who had been in Pakistan believed she had "a chance of making a good recovery".
"Clearly it would be inappropriate on every level, not least for her, to put her through all of this if there was no hope of decent recovery," he told reporters shortly before Malala's arrival at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham on Monday.

Malala Yousafzai was flown from Pakistan via the United Arab Emirates by air ambulance, almost a week after she and two other schoolgirls were attacked as they returned home from school in Mingora in the Swat Valley. She became widely known as a campaigner for girls' education in Pakistan as a result of a diary she wrote for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban, when they banned all girls from attending school.

The gunman who boarded the van in which she was travelling asked for her by name. Surgeons in the north-western city of Peshawar removed the bullet that had entered her skull from close to her spinal cord and she was then moved to a military hospital in Rawalpindi for more specialist treatment.
Dr David Rosser: "We do have very extensive experience of this sort of traumatic, bullet-related injury"

A military statement said a panel of doctors had recommended she should be "shifted abroad to a UK centre which has the capability to provide integrated care to children who have sustained severe injury". Dr Rosser said that specialists at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham were "in a good position to treat her" because they had 10 years of experience in treating UK military casualties - and her condition was much the same as a "battle casualty from a physiological point of view".
Once Malala recovers sufficiently, it is thought she will need neurological help as well as treatment to repair or replace damaged bones in her skull.

The Taliban have threatened to target her again. She was given tight security for her journey to the UK and officials in Birmingham said they also took security very seriously.
Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai first came to public attention in 2009 when she wrote a BBC diary about life under the Taliban. Now recovering from surgery after being shot by the militants, the campaigner for girls' rights is in the spotlight again.

Malala was 11 when she began writing a diary for BBC Urdu. Her blogs described life under Taliban rule from her home town of Mingora, in the northwest region of Pakistan she affectionately calls "My Swat".

I am afraid - 3 January 2009
"I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taliban. I have had such dreams since the launch of the military operation in Swat. I was afraid going to school because the Taliban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools. Only 11 students attended the class out of 27. The number decreased because of Taliban's edict.

On my way from school to home I heard a man saying 'I will kill you'. I hastened my pace... to my utter relief he was talking on his mobile and must have been threatening someone else over the phone."

By 2009, the Taliban controlled much of the Swat Valley and applied their austere interpretation of sharia law.
"When the Taliban came to Swat they banned women from going to the market and they banned shopping," Malala said. But Malala's primary objection was to the Taliban's prohibition of female education. Militants had destroyed over 150 schools in 2008 alone.
"Malala Yousufzai was one of the few brave voices who , writes The Daily Telegraph's Pakistan correspondent Rob Crilly.
"She did it anonymously - to do otherwise would have brought immediate death. But her blog for the BBC Urdu Service detailing the abuses meant no one could pretend an accommodation with the terrorists was anything other than a deal with the devil."
"Malala doesn't want to play to some western-backed or Taliban-loved stereotype. She shows us that there are voices out there, in Pakistan, that need to be heard, if only to help the country find democracy that is for and from the people, all the people."

Do not wear colourful dresses - 5 January 2009
"I was getting ready for school and about to wear my uniform when I remembered that our principal had told us not to wear uniforms and come to school wearing normal clothes instead.

"So I decided to wear my favourite pink dress. Other girls in school were also wearing colourful dresses. During the morning assembly we were told not to wear colourful clothes as the Taliban would object to it."

When she wrote her blogs for BBC Urdu, Malala was already able to speak English and hoped one day to become a doctor.

One sombre entry, titled "I may not go to school again", details the imminent closure of her school in January 2009. Other entries express her fear of being killed by the Taliban. But she received support and encouragement in her activism from her parents. The idea for the blog was even that of her father Ziauddin, who runs a local private school.
"I was in a bad mood while going to school because winter vacations are starting from tomorrow. The principal announced the vacations but did not mention the date the school was to reopen.
"The girls were not too excited about vacations because they knew if the Taliban implemented their edict [banning girls' education] they would not be able to come to school again. I am of the view that the school will one day reopen but while leaving I looked at the building as if I would not come here again."

Malala's father was himself an outspoken education activist who received death threats from the Taliban. Along with many locals, Malala and her family went into exile from the Swat Valley when a government military operation attempted to clear the region of Taliban militants.

"I'm really bored because I have no books to read", she told Adam B. Ellick, who made a documentary about her in 2009. Following the military's partial success in driving back the Taliban, Malala was able to return to Mingora later that year.

During 2009, Malala began to appear on television and publically advocate female education.
With her raised public profile, becoming the "progressive face of Swat", Waseem Ahmad Shah, of Pakistani paper The Dawn, finds it inexcusable that Malala was ultimately "left at the mercy of militants".

In 2011 she was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize by The KidsRights Foundation. Later last year the government awarded her the National Peace Award - subsequently renamed the National Malala Peace Prize - for those under 18 years of age.

"The night was filled with the noise of artillery fire and I woke up three times. But since there was no school I got up later at 10am. Afterwards, my friend came over and we discussed our homework. Today is the last day before the Taliban's edict comes into effect, and my friend was discussing homework as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

"Today, I also read my diary written for the BBC in Urdu. My mother liked my pen name Gul Makai. I also like the name because my real name means 'grief stricken'."

Politicians and indeed, entire governments, have shied away from making such bold statements [about female education] against the Taliban. But Rob Crilly in the Telegraph states how "on this occasion they [the politicians] have sensed the public horror and begun making a beeline for Malala's sickbed".
"If she makes a full recovery - and she still has a long, long way to go - I suspect Malala will remain one of the few voices prepared to take on the extremists. And the politicians will make their excuses and forget all about their promises."

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