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Interview: Even If Its People Hate Me, I Will Still Love Pakistan, Says Malala

Malala Yousafzai conversing with Abdul Hai Kakar from RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal.
Malala Yousafzai conversing with Abdul Hai Kakar from RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal.
Child-rights icon Malala Yousafzai has called on conspiracy theorists and critics in Pakistan to think about her message before condemning her. In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal correspondent Abdul Hai Kakar, Malala says her intentions in promoting the rights of girls and women are pure.

RFE/RL: In Pakistan, some people claim that you did not write the blog for BBC Urdu that brought you into the limelight. How would you respond to such assertions?

Malala Yousafzai: The month of January in 2009 was the most dangerous of times in Swat. Every night the Taliban used to slaughter two or three people in Green Square in the center of Mingora. One day that month, my father told me that a BBC journalist was requesting a blog by one of our students. He asked me, 'Would you like to do it?' I told him, "Sure, I will do it because it is a good opportunity for us to tell the world what the people of Swat -- the children and, specifically, the girls here -- think." I was very happy and told my father that I would write the blog or would just dictate it over the phone.

RFE/RL: Some Pakistanis believe and publicly say that you were not shot by the Taliban and you just made it up. How do you feel when you hear such comments?

Malala: People who say such things can be forgiven. There is extreme hopelessness in our country and people are even disappointed with politicians. The important thing to note is that it is not important whether Malala was shot or not -- Malala is not asking for personal favors or support. She is asking for support with girls' education and women's rights. So don't support Malala, support her campaign for girls' education and women's rights.

RFE/RL: Some of your critics say that Malala is not true to her cause but has merely turned into a brand. How do you respond to such criticism?

Malala: People say Malala's voice is being sold to the world. But I see it as Malala's voice reaching the world and resonating globally. You should think about what is behind Malala's voice. What is she saying? I am only talking about education, women's rights, and peace. I want poverty to end in tomorrow's Pakistan. I want every girl in Pakistan to go to school.

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RFE/RL: Some clerics in Pakistan say that you are being manipulated by the West for their own objectives, and that your rise is part of a conspiracy against the country. Do you see any merit in such allegations?

Malala: Any talk of me engaging in a conspiracy against Pakistan is completely baseless. Pakistan is already in the midst of many conspiracies. The situation there has been deteriorating for a long time. We have not gone a day without hearing about a few people being shot in [the southern seaport city of] Karachi. We have not gone a day without people being murdered. I want people to remember that Pakistan is my country. It is like my mother and I love it dearly. Even if its people hate me, I will still love it.

RFE/RL: So you are not being used by the West?

Malala: In countries other than Pakistan -- I won't necessarily call them "Western" -- people support me. This is because people there respect others. They don't do this because I am a Pashtun or a Punjabi, a Pakistani, or an Iranian, they do it because of one's words and character. This is why I am being respected and supported there.

RFE/RL: After your speech to the United Nations some people in Pakistan said you were trying to please everyone...

Malala: I don't agree with my speech being seen as an effort to please someone. I wanted it to be seen as what I stand for. I thought that after recovering from the attack people everywhere wanted to hear what I had to say. They wanted to know whether I was intimidated by the attack. They wanted to know whether I still wanted to take my campaign for girls' education forward. I used the speech to spread the message that Malala is undeterred and that she is determined to take her campaign for girls' education forward.

RFE/RL: Adnan Rashid, a Pakistani Taliban commander, recently wrote an open letter to you. He alleged that your campaign was not aimed at promoting education and was really targeted against the Taliban. How would you respond to him?

Malala: It was his right to express his views. I think I have a right to live my life the way I like. I did not engage in propaganda against the Taliban, I only spoke about girls' right to education, and the Taliban had banned girls from going to school. So I am against some of the things that the Taliban has done and advocates. No doubt I am against banning children from education. I stand for every girl to be able to go to school.

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