(BIRMINGHAM, England) — The 15-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl who was nearly killed by the Taliban for being an outspoken advocate for girls’ education is talking and shows no sign of brain damage, according to Pakistani officials who have been briefed by her doctors.
Malala Yousufzai is showing remarkable improvement, despite her being shot point blank by a Taliban gunman in northern Pakistan’s Swat Valley two weeks ago.
“She is making dramatic progress, and we are very pleased at how she’s doing,” Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, told ABC News.
Yousufzai’s parents flew to Birmingham Thursday and visited their daughter at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which treats British casualties of war and specializes in trauma medicine and the kind of treatment Yousufzai needs.
Hospital officials declined to comment on Yousufzai’s condition, but doctors have said she is making steady progress and is likely to make a good recovery.
Before Yousufzai’s parents left Pakistan, her father, Ziauddin, vowed that he would return to his country with his daughter — despite Taliban promises to keep targeting the girl who has become a global icon of courage.
“We will be back in Pakistan as soon as Malala recovers, because Swat is my home, and I cannot think of leaving there,” he said in a statement released by Pakistani state television.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, he called his daughter’s recovery “miraculous.”
“I have seen doomsday and survived, you might say,” said Ziauddin, who ran the girls’ school that Malala attended despite Taliban threats. “Malala has been honored by the nation, by the world, by people of all classes of all creeds of all colors. I am grateful for that. But I am a father. I respect all those feelings, but the only priority now is the life of my daughter and her total rehabilitation. I don’t need any awards. … I need my daughter.”
Despite Yousufzai’s progress, she has a long way to go. Doctors have said she will be in the hospital for months and need skull reconstruction. One of the bullets that hit her grazed her skull, chipping the bone but not penetrating her brain. That likely saved her life and prevented the kind of brain damage that her family feared.
Yousufzai first spoke out for girls’ education in 2009, when she was 11 years old. The Taliban had taken over most of the Swat Valley, blowing up schools and preventing girls from getting an education. Thousands of girls’ schools were destroyed and girls who attempted to study feared getting kidnapped or attacked with acid.
Most politicians refused to criticize the Taliban, but Malala Yousufzai had the courage to speak out. She launched an anonymous blog and began to give interviews in English about the importance of continuing her schooling.
Today, her health is apparently good enough that she can think about continuing her studies.
Standing next to Ziauddin Yousufzai in Islamabad, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik noted that Malala had asked her father to bring textbooks with him.
“The mission she has taken forward and the education awareness that has spread across Pakistan is all Malala’s doing,” he said, according to Pakistani television. “So I think that our entire nation should be proud of her love for the soil of her country.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN