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Malala Yousafzai has revealed that the skull bone fragment doctors removed after the Nobel Peace Prize winner was shot by a Taliban militant nine years ago still sits on her bookshelf as a reminder of the atrocity she survived.
The 24-year-old Pakistani activist wrote in a new blog post on Podium – released as the Taliban retakes control of Afghanistan – about how she is still receiving treatments related to the shooting when she was 15 years old.
She wrote: “Two weeks ago, while US troops withdrew from Afghanistan and the Taliban gained control, I lay in a hospital bed in Boston, undergoing my sixth surgery, as doctors continued to repair the Taliban’s damage to my body.”
She described the events that unfolded nine years ago when she was shot in the head by a Taliban militant.
“In October 2012, a member of the Pakistani Taliban boarded my school bus and shot one bullet into my left temple. The bullet grazed my left eye, skull and brain – lacerating my facial nerve, shattering my eardrum and breaking my jaw joints,” she wrote.
Yousafzai claimed that her life was saved because of the “quick” action taken by emergency surgeons in Peshawar, Pakistan. “But soon my organs began to fail and I was airlifted to the capital city, Islamabad,” she wrote. “During this time, I was in an induced coma. I don’t remember anything from the day of the shooting until the moment I woke up at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, UK. When I opened my eyes, I was relieved to realise I was alive.”
In the post, she described her scars — both physical and emotional.
“I touched my abdomen; it felt hard and stiff. I asked the nurse if there was a problem with my stomach,” Malala recalls. “She informed me that when the Pakistani surgeons removed part of my skull bone, they relocated it in my stomach and that, one day, I would have another surgery to put it back in my head.”
However, UK doctors then decided to perform a cranioplasty by fitting “a titanium plate” in place of her skull bone to reduce “the risk of infection”.
“They took the piece of my skull out of my stomach. Today it sits on my bookshelf,” she revealed. The post includes an image of the mounted piece of bone.
Yousafzai said that she was waking up to go for her latest surgery on 9 August when she found out Kunduz had become the first major city to fall to the Taliban advance. The Islamist group would go on to enter Kabul on 15 August.
In the following days, the Peace Prize winner wrote letters to different state heads, and women’s right activists around the world, she said, trying to find safe places for people stranded in Afghanistan. “But I know we can’t save everyone,” she wrote.
“Nine years later, I am still recovering from just one bullet. The people of Afghanistan have taken millions of bullets over the last four decades,” Malala added. “My heart breaks for those whose names we will forget or never even know, whose cries for help will go unanswered.”
The US has agreed a deal with the Taliban to withdraw all its remaining forces from Afghanistan by the 31 August. It and other foreign powers are racing to evacuate at many allied Afghans and their own citizens as they can before the deadline, after which the US has said it will give up control of Kabul International Airport.