If you’re like most of us, you’ve already heard the story of the Taliban’s attempted assassination of then 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai.
The account is known by millions around the world – so much so that Malala is a near-household first name at this point.
But very few know about the other two other girls who were wounded in the attack back on October 9, 2012, with Malala.
Malala’s friend Shazia Ramzan was shot twice in the arm and her friend Kainat Riaz was shot in the hand. Malala’s injuries obvious required much more intensive medical attention and expertise – so much so that she was airlifted to Britain for treatment – but these other two teens faced daunting challenge on their own, without Western help, and in spite of it all, they continued their education in a country where girls are shot just for fighting for an education.
Riaz says she was so afraid that she “didn’t go to hospital [right away] because I felt that the guy would come again and he will shoot me….[F]or one week I couldn’t sleep at all. Because whenever I just closed my eyes [I pictured] what happened to us on the bus: lots of blood and Malala and my hand.”
Both Ramzan and Riaz say that they were still determined to go to school after they recovered – and that’s exactly what they continued doing.
People around them were scared to help out though.
“We [asked] other people for bus travel,” Riaz recalls. “Openly they told us, ‘No, we are scared. We are sorry we can’t pick you up.’ After three months we had a bomb blast behind my house. So my town told me, ‘This happened because of you and you should leave the town.’”
But Malala never forgot them. In 2013 when UWC Atlantic College, boarding school in Wales, offered her a scholarship, she declined, and asked instead that her friends be given the opportunity to come study in safety there.
Ramzan and Riaz said, “I think it’s really good to get education with boys and girls, coeducation, because it makes me think that we are not different. We are equal.”
“That is what I feel here in UWC Atlantic College with the mix of other students. Mix of boys, mix of girls. We have different nationalities. When you hear other people’s stories it makes you think that we are here in the right place.”
They add that since they faced the attack and overcame their fears of having the same sort of thing happen again, they now “have more confidence, more strength, and more support from my family and from other people. I feel now that I can do everything,” Riaz said.
Ramzan added that “when you have that feeling that in your heart that you want to do something but then you don’t feel comfortable to do [it]?…But now I speak freely. I share my ideas.”
She encourages all to stand up to any obstacles they face whether from terrorist groups or an oppressive system. All three girls were – even before that Taliban attack – outspoken political activists, who also fought for social equality. That is, in fact, why they were targeted by the terrorist group – even at such a young age.
“This is your world. This is your choice. You should stand up for your rights…. If one person can be educated, they can teach other people. They can teach other children. You help one person and they will also help another person. If we stand for other people, we all can become Malala.”
(Article by M. David and Reagan Ali)