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'White Bus Went Red': We Read Out Malala's Recalling of Being Shot by Taliban

"Nine years later I'm still recovering from one bullet. Afghans have taken millions of bullets in last 4 decades."

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5 min read

Video Editor: Sandeep Suman

"Two weeks ago, while the US troops withdrew from Afghanistan and the Taliban gained control, I lay in a hospital bed in Boston, undergoing my sixth surgery, as doctors continued to repair the Taliban’s damage to my body."

Pakistani activist and youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, was shot in the head by a Taliban militant, in 2012, in Pakistan's Peshawar, when she was just 15. She looked the terrorist in the eye and took a bullet in the head, for fighting for young girls' rights and education.

Nine years later, sharing her experience with Podium, Malala recalls the day she was shot, and everything that unfolded since. Her heart goes out to the Afghans who are now forced to live under the Taliban rule again.

Malala Yousafzai at the hospital in 2012.

(Photo Courtesy: Podium)

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'Don’t Remember Anything From the Day of the Shooting'

On 9 October 2012, a member of the Pakistani Taliban boarded Malala's school bus and shot one bullet into her left temple. The bullet grazed her left eye, skull and brain, lacerating her facial nerve, shattering her eardrum and breaking her jaw joints – requiring her to go through various rounds of critical surgery.

"The emergency surgeons in Peshawar removed my left temporal skull bone to create space for my brain to swell in response to the injury. Their quick action saved my life, but soon my organs began to fail and I was airlifted to Islamabad," recalled Malala. A week later, the doctors determined that she needed more intense care and should be moved out of her home country to continue treatment.

Malala Yousafzai.

(Photo: Aroop Mishra/The Quint)

'I Recognised Only Half of My Face'

Days later, Malala still couldn’t speak, but she started writing things in a notebook and showing them to the nurses. She had questions – What happened to her? Where was her father? Who was going to pay for the treatment? They didn't have the money.

I wrote 'mirror' and showed it to the nurses. I wanted to see myself. I recognised only half of my face. The other half was unfamiliar. But, I believed in my strength. I believed I would get out of the hospital and run like a wolf, fly like an eagle.
Malala

A part of Malala's broken skull on her bookshelf.

(Photo Courtesy: Podium)

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'Felt Like Starting Over, a Second Life'

The doctors in London, United Kingdom, eventually decided to fit a titanium plate where Malala's skull bone had been, reducing the risk of infection, in a procedure called cranioplasty.

"When my family joined me, I started physical therapy and rehabilitation. I walked slowly, taking baby steps. I talked like a baby too. It felt like starting over, a second life."
Malala

Malala Yousafzai.

(Photo: Aroop Mishra/The Quint)

She still needed two extensive surgeries. And they worked – Malala finally had more movement in her face.

Malala in the hospital, after her surgery in 2018.

(Photo Courtesy: Pudium)

'I Know We Can’t Save Everyone'

While recalling the bullet attack on her and her road to recovery, Malala's heart went out to all the Afghans who had to face bullets by the Taliban, who are back to the draconian and darks ages under them and are desperately trying to flee the country.

"Over the next few days, with ice packs and a bandage wrapped around my head, I watched as province after province fell to men with guns, loaded with bullets, like the one that shot me."
Malala

Malala Yousafzai.

(Photo: Aroop Mishra/The Quint)

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'People of Afghanistan Have Taken Millions of Bullets Over the Last Four Decades'

Malala thanks all those who extended support to her and helped her survive and recover. "The wounds from my recent surgery are fresh. On my back, I still carry the scar where doctors removed the bullet from my body," recalls Malala.

"Without the crowds of people holding 'I am Malala' signs, without thousands of letters and offers of support, prayers and news stories, I might not have received medical care. My parents certainly wouldn’t have been able to cover the costs on their own. I might not have survived..."
Malala

Malala after her surgery in August 2021.

(Photo Courtesy: Podium)

Malala said that she recently called her best friend – the girl who was sitting next to her on the school bus when she was attacked. She wanted to know what exactly happened that day and asked her friend to narrate the incident to her.

"Did I scream? Did I try to run away," she asked her friend.

"No. You stood still and silent, staring into the face of the Taliban as he called out your name. He recognised you and started firing."
Malala's friend told her over the phone, recalling the day she was shot

Two of her classmates – Shazia and Kainat – were shot in the hand and the arm. "The white school bus went red with blood," Malala recalled.

Malala Yousafzai.

(Photo: Aroop Mishra/The Quint)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Published: 
Edited By :Tejas Harad
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