Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai returned to Pakistan Thursday for the first time since she was brutally attacked and nearly killed in October of 2012, reports CNN.
She arrived to Benazir Bhutto International Airport early Thursday morning, accompanied by heavy security. Her arrival made instant headlines in Pakistan, with mixed reactions. Many in her country view her as a hero and an inspiration, but there are still those who consider her an agitator and were not pleased about her return.
Her return visit hasn’t been idle. Since she arrived, Yousafzai has given a moving, heartfelt speech and had a meeting with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
“I still can’t believe that this is actually happening.”
— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 29, 2018
Yousafzai was visibly emotional during her speech outside the prime minister’s office, and praised the fact that “more than six million dollars” had been invested in education in Pakistan in the last few years. She said she hoped “we all join hands for the betterment of Pakistan for our future, to empower our women so they can earn and stand on their own two feet.”
“I still can’t believe that it is actually happening,” she said during her speech. “In the last five years, I have always dreamed of coming back to my country.”
The crowd erupted into cheers at her words and the raw emotions of the moment brought Yousafzai to tears.
Abbasi said he was “so happy” she returned to Pakistan to visit. “You represent us in the world and especially of the youth and girls and the work you’ve done for education of girls,” he said. “It is our dream and prayers that you are successful, our prayers with you. Welcome home Malala!”
In 2012, when she was just 14 years old, Yousafzai and her classmates were attacked by a member of the Pakistani Taliban in the Swat Valley region of the country. She had been speaking out for years against what the militant group was doing. Two of her classmates were injured, but “bullets struck Yousafzai in the head and neck, leaving her in a critical condition.” She was eventually flown to Great Britain for treatment, and the Taliban released a statement during that time that said they would target her again if she survived her injuries.
Yousafzai is now twenty years old and studying at Oxford University.
Niaz Ahmed, a friend of Yousafzai’s father, said, “Her courage is an example for education in a place called Swat. She defeated fear in Swat.”