A Pakistani teenager nearly killed by Taliban gunmen for advocating that all girls should have the right to go to school gave her first formal public remarks Friday at the United Nations. It also happened to be Malala Yousafzai’s 16th birthday.
“Today, it is an honor for me to be speaking again after a long time,” she said. “Being here with such honorable people is a great moment in my life.”
She looked out at an audience of hundreds of children from around the world and U.N. members, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and told them that she was wearing a pink shawl that once belonged to Benazir Bhutto, the two-time prime minister of Pakistan who was killed in 2007 in a suicide attack at a political rally.
“I don’t know where to begin my speech,” she said. “I don’t know what people would be expecting me to say. But first of all, thank you to God for whom we all are equal and thank you to every person who has prayed for my fast recovery and a new life. I cannot believe how much love people have shown me.”
She went on to give a rousing speech, saying that she held no contempt in her heart for the masked gunmen who, on October 9, 2012, jumped on her school bus and shouted her name, scaring other girls into identifying her. The gunmen shot and injured two other girls as well as Yousafzai.
“They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed,” she said. “And then, out of that silence, came thousands of voices.”
Yousafzai said she doesn’t want revenge against the Taliban, who have threatened to hunt her down again and end her life.