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Humanitarian award for brave Malala

A Pakistani teenager who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban has been honoured as Harvard University's humanitarian of the year.

Malala Yousafzai, an outspoken proponent for girls' education accepted the 2013 Peter J Gomes Humanitarian Award at the Massachusetts university.

Harvard president Drew Faust said she was pleased to welcome Malala because of their shared interest in education.

Malala, 16, was shot in the head last October. Militants said she was attacked because she was critical of the Taliban, not because of her views on education.

She said she hoped to become a politician because they can have influence on a broad scale.

Speaking nostalgically about her home region, the Swat Valley, Malala said she hoped to return some day. She called it a "paradise" but described a dangerous area where militants blew up dozens of schools and sought to discourage girls from going to school by snatching pens from their hands.

Pupils, she said, reacted by hiding their books under their shawls so people would not know they were going to school.

"The so-called Taliban were afraid of women's power and were afraid of the power of education," she told hundreds of students, staff and well-wishers who packed Harvard's ornate Sanders Theatre for the award ceremony.

Malala highlighted the fact that very few people spoke out against what was happening in her home region.

"Although few people spoke, but the voice for peace and education was powerful," she said.

She also described waking up in hospital in the UK, where she was taken for emergency treatment following the assassination attempt in Pakistan.

"And when I was in Birmingham, I didn't know where I was, I didn't know where my parents are, I didn't know who has shot me and I had no idea what was happening," she said. "But I thank God that I'm alive."

The chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, paid a special tribute to Malala in a message read publicly during her award ceremony.

"Your courage," Mr Jagland said, "is sending a strong message to women to stand up for their rights, which constitutes a precondition for peace".



From Belfast Telegraph