x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Sheikh Abdullah praises courageous Taliban shooting victim

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE Foreign Minister, visits the British hospital where Taliban shooting victim, Malala Yousafzai, is being treated.

The courage of the 15-year-old Taliban shooting victim Malala Yousafzai was applauded yesterday by the Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed.

Her bravery "inspires us to reinforce our commitment to rejecting ideologies rooted in intolerance and extremism", Sheikh Abdullah said.

"By helping Malala … the UAE is also voicing its firm belief in the right of girls everywhere to education."

Sheikh Abdullah was visiting the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, where Malala is being treated. With him were the British foreign secretary, William Hague, and Rehman Malik, Pakistan's interior minister.

The delegation met Dr David Rosser, the hospital's medical director, and Malala's father, Ziauddin Yousafzai.

Malala was shot in the head on her school bus on October 9. She has been a vocal supporter of girls' education, which made her the target of Taliban militants in her home town of Mingora in Pakistan's Swat Valley.

Six days after the shooting, Malala was moved to the United Kingdom for treatment. The costs of her medical care are being covered by the Pakistan government, and the UAE provided the air ambulance that took her from Pakistan to the UK.

"The people of the UAE were appalled by what happened to Malala, which is why we helped to bring her to the UK for medical care," said Sheikh Abdullah. "We are grateful to the excellent medical team here at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for what they have done for her.

"I would also like to convey the best wishes of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Malala and her family. She is in our prayers."

Mr Hague said that while the girl's swift recovery was an "absolute priority", the UK was determined "to champion education for women and girls in Pakistan".

"The people of Pakistan have paid a high price from terrorism and extremism," he said. "We will stand by all those who, like Malala, are courageously defending the rights of women, in Pakistan and around the world."

In 2009, Malala was commissioned by the BBC to write a diary about life in the Swat Valley, which had at the time become a battleground between Pakistani military forces and Taliban loyalists. The diary first appeared on the BBC's Urdu website.

Malala, then aged 11, talked about her dreams of obtaining a good education and the fear that Taliban threats had instilled in her schoolmates.

In statements sent to media in Pakistan, the Taliban have said Malala deserved to die because she had spoken against their group and praised the US president, Barack Obama. She was also called a "spy of the West".

The man who planned the attack on Malala, identified by Pakistani authorities as Attaullah, was captured in 2009 during a military offensive but released three months later. Believed to be in his thirties, he was one of the two gunmen who shot her.

vtodorova@thenational.ae