At just 11-years-old, Malala Yousafzai became an outspoken activist when the Taliban took over her small northwestern Pakistanian town in 2009. She spoke out about her passion for education—as well as dreams of one day becoming a doctor—and was awarded Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize by former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.
As Yousafzai’s voice became more and more powerful, she became a symbol of defiance against the Taliban—as well as a target.
When Yousafzai was 14, masked Taliban gunmen attacked her school bus filled with terrified children, and shot her several times in the head and neck. Incredibly, Yousafzai survived the attack and at 22, has just now graduated from the University of Oxford in England, fulfilling her dreams of pursuing an education.
“Hard to express my joy and gratitude right now as I completed my Philosophy, Politics, and Economics degree at Oxford,” she tweeted on Thursday. “I don’t know what’s ahead. For now, it will be Netflix, reading, and sleep.”
Hard to express my joy and gratitude right now as I completed my Philosophy, Politics and Economics degree at Oxford. I don’t know what’s ahead. For now, it will be Netflix, reading and sleep. 😴 pic.twitter.com/AUxN55cUAf— Malala (@Malala) June 19, 2020
Following her attack, a Taliban spokesman confirmed to the New York Times that Yousafzai had indeed been the target, and called her crusade for education rights an “obscenity.”
“She has become a symbol of Western culture in the area; she was openly propagating it,” said the spokesman, implying that if she survived, they would certainly try to kill her again. “Let this be a lesson.”
Plenty of people were happy to wish Yousafzai congratulations on Twitter, in what must be an incredibly proud day for the young activist and her family.
They aimed for your head to stop you fighting for the right to education of women and children. But the right to education has won, you have won and all women with you.— Nereide (@Nereide) June 19, 2020
Congratulations, @Malala, for your well-deserved degree.
Continue to be inspirational.
Ad maiora semper!🌾
Congratulations!— Andy Richter (@AndyRichter) June 19, 2020
Wonderful! You are a true inspiration to girls all over the world. My heartfelt congratulations 🎂📚📚— Elif Şafak / Elif Shafak (@Elif_Safak) June 19, 2020
In 2014, following the attack, Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her fight against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.