Malala Yousafzai Recovers from 6th Surgery in Taliban Shooting as She Works to Evacuate Afghans

The 24-year-old human rights activist has spent the past two weeks "making phone calls, writing letters to heads of state around the world and speaking with women's rights activists still in Afghanistan"

Co-founder of Malala Fund and a Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai poses for a photo backstage during Massachusetts Conference For Women 2019 at Boston Convention Center on December 12, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Malala Yousafzai. Photo: Marla Aufmuth/Getty

As U.S. troops have continued their withdrawal and evacuation from Afghanistan, which is now under Taliban control, Malala Yousafzai was in a Boston hospital bed — recovering from her sixth surgery to repair the damage a Taliban fighter did to her body nearly a decade ago.

In a post published Tuesday on Podium, the 24-year-old Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist viscerally details her injuries and treatment.

And she shares how she's been responding to unfolding events in Afghanistan while working to get women and girls out of the country.

Yousafzai was 15 and a student in Pakistan when a Taliban gunman boarded her school bus and shot her in the face in 2012.

As she writes in the post published Tuesday, "the bullet grazed my left eye, skull and brain — lacerating my facial nerve, shattering my eardrum and breaking my jaw joints."

Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai. STR/AFP via Getty

When she came to after being put into an induced coma, Yousafzai writes, she discovered a portion of her skull had been removed to create space for brain swelling.

She was in pain, had blurry vision and could not speak.

"I recognised only half of my face," she writes. "The other half was unfamiliar — black eye, sprinkles of gun powder, no smile, no frown, no movement at all. Half of my hair had been shaved off. I thought the Taliban had done this to me too, but the nurse said the doctors shaved it for surgery."

The portion of her skull bone that been removed, she adds, had been relocated to her stomach. Over time and after other procedures, it was again removed and now sits on a bookshelf in her home, encased in glass. (She shared a photo of the case in her post.)

In the years since she was shot, Yousafzai has undergone numerous procedures — the latest to reduce lymphatic fluid in her cheek and jaw caused by a previous procedure.

As she got ready for her most recent surgery, the world as she knew it changed, she writes.

Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai.

"On August 9 in Boston, I woke up at 5:00 am to go to the hospital for my latest surgery and saw the news that the Taliban had taken Kunduz, the first major city to fall in Afghanistan," she writes. "Over the next few days, with ice packs and a bandage wrapped around my head, I watched as province after province fell to men with guns, loaded with bullets like the one that shot me."

As soon as she recovered, Yousafzai writes, she was "making phone calls, writing letters to heads of state around the world and speaking with women's rights activists still in Afghanistan."

In a statement on Twitter, she also expressed her worries for women, minorities and human rights advocates in the country while calling upon local authorities and the international community to provide aid.

"We watch in complete shock as Taliban takes control of Afghanistan," she tweeted. "I am deeply worried about women, minorities and human rights advocates."

In the past two weeks, she says she and other activists have helped several Afghans and their families find safety elsewhere amid the ongoing evacuation operation out of the airport in the Afghanistan capital.

"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," Yousafzai writes. "My heart breaks for those whose names we will forget or never even know, whose cries for help will go unanswered."

While she still carries the scars from her shooting, her fear, Yousafzai continues, is for those whose "cries for help will go unanswered."

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