Malala Yousafzai said in an interview telecast on a major American television network Monday that she was dedicated to the cause of girls' education, and wanted to return to her home in Swat.
Malala, who was shot in the head at point-blank range by the Taliban, told ABC News' celebrated anchorperson Diane Sawyer that she missed her friends and her home in the Swat, calling the picturesque valley "paradise on earth".
"Yes, there's no place like home. And I believe it," she said. "If you go anywhere, even paradise, you will miss your home. And I do miss my home."
"But won't it always be too dangerous?" ABC's anchorperson Sawyer asked.
"I think life is always dangerous," Malala replied, "Some people get afraid of it. Some people don't go forward. But some people, if they want to achieve their goal, they have to go. They have to move. ... We have seen the barbaric situation of the 21st century in Swat. So why should I be afraid now?"
"Do you know how close you came to death?" Sawyer asked.
"I think death didn't want to kill me. And God was with me," Malala said. "And the people prayed for me". And now I know that you must not be afraid of death. And you must move forward. You must go forward, because education and peace is very important. "
Anchorperson Sawyer noted that the shot fired at Malala last year was heard round the world, giving birth to a movement of change-a movement to educate girls, and the Swat girl has become an international symbol of courage and hope.
"In some parts of the world, students are going to school every day. It's their normal life," Malala told Sawyer. "But in other part of the world, we are starving for education ... it's like a precious gift. It's like a diamond"-a diamond she was willing to risk her life for.
Referring to the fear spread by Taliban's during their brutal control of Swat, Malala said, "At night when I used to sleep, I was thinking all the time that shall I put a knife under my pillow. The time was of fear, but some people can overcome fear and some people can fight fear."
Anchorperson Sawyer observed that when the Taliban issued an edict banning all girls from going to school, Malala spoke up when no one else would. She blogged about the Taliban attacks on schools for the BBC, and even appeared in a New York Times documentary, saying defiantly: "They cannot stop me. I will get my education-if it is in home, school, or anyplace."
Even though she knew there had been threats made against her, Malala said she never expected the Taliban to harm a young girl. But she did rehearse in her own mind what she would do if attacked.
"It was always my desire before the attack that if a man comes ... I would tell that man that education is very important," Malala told ABC's Sawyer. "I will tell that man that I even want education for your daughter."
"And you think that would work against a gun?" Sawyer asked.
"I thought that words and books and pens are more powerful than guns," Malala answered.
And on Oct 9 last year as she was returning home from school, she said she never imagined that the young man who boarded the bus and asked "Who is Malala?" was an assassin sent by the Taliban to kill her.
"On the day when I was shot, all of my friends' faces were covered, except mine," Malala said.
"It was brave, but was it wise?" Sawyer asked Malala.
Malala answered: "At that time, I was not worried about myself. I wanted to live my life as I want. "
She said she did not remember the man pointing his Colt .45 and firing three bullets at point blank range, but her best friend told her: "You said nothing and you were just for-you were just holding my hand and you just squeezed my hand, like you were just forcing it. And you said nothing."
Bleeding heavily, unconscious, Malala was rushed to a local clinic, then to a hospital where a military surgeon saved her life by removing part of her skull as her brain began to swell. She was transported to a military hospital, and then days later airlifted to England. She called it her "seven days of coma dreams."
"At the time, I was-thinking that am I dead or am I alive?" Malala said. "If I am dead, I shall be like-in a graveyard. And then but I said, like, you are not dead. You can talk to yourself. How can you be dead? Then I said, 'You are alive ... just hope. One day you will wake up."
Today, after numerous surgeries and intensive physiotherapy, Malala is attending school in Birmingham, England, and said she was "totally recovered." She said she loved music, drama and physics-and remained extremely competitive.
"Still I want to be the number one," Malala said. "And-I want to be the number one in every field."
In the past few months Malala has been honoured by human rights organizations around the world, yet she said she's a bit embarrassed by all the attention.
"I'm feeling that I'm just getting older," she told Sawyer. "I'm 16 now. No one is accepting me as a child."
By the end of this week, Malala, who refuses to let her work get in the way of her own schooling near her new home in Birmingham, will find out if she has become the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in its 112-year history.
Original headline: Malala wants to return to Pakistan, says one must not be afraid of death
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