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Malala Yousafzai (16), who was shot in the head by the Taliban last October, accepted the Tipperary International Peace Award at a sell-out ceremony attended by almost 400 guests. Malala, who was visibly moved as she accepted the award, is the youngest ever recipient of the 28-year-old prize.
“It is a great honour for me to be here in Tipperary . . . thank you for giving me such a prestigious award,”
But she said she does not want to be known for the rest of her life for defying a Taliban assassination attempt.
“I want to be known as the girl who fought for the right to education for every boy and girl.”
Malala, who is now based in the UK, celebrated her 16th birthday last month. She said she misses her Swat Valley home in Pakistan but is determined to continue her fight for human rights.
She said that education was ultimately the key to defusing conflict in the world’s war zones.
“Peace is not only the absence of war, it is the absence of fear. They (the Taliban) took us out of a paradise in the beautiful Swat Valley and put us in a hell. But … education can bring change.”
Tipperary Peace Convention official Martin Quinn said Malala’s courage has been an inspiration for all those fighting for human rights such as education.
“You, Malala, are a light in the darkness. Your voice was not silenced by the Taliban. It was amplified,”
The teen was also thrilled to hear a special ballad written in her honour by the Holy Rosary College choir from Mount Bellew in Galway.
Entitled ‘The Flower of Pakistan’, the song was written by teacher Eamon Quinn. She also received a specially commissioned crystal dove of peace by Wexford glass smith Fred Curtis.
Trade Minister Joe Costello said Malala was an inspiration.
“I applaud her singular bravery and I am delighted her efforts to champion human rights in the face of intimidation and adversity have been honoured,” he said.
Security was tight amid concern that extremists may still want to target her. Malala was attacked by the Taliban after speaking out on her blog about female education in Pakistan.
On October 9 last year, Taliban fighters boarded her school bus and shot her at point-blank range. One bullet lodged in her skull. Malala was rushed to hospital where Pakistani surgeons saved her life. She was later airlifted to the UK for specialist brain surgery.
Malala had a titanium plate inserted to support her skull and cochlear implants fitted.
Malala used her award to endorse the ‘Because I Am A Girl’ education campaign by Plan Ireland, which aims to promote female education and rights worldwide. She has also been nominated for a Nobel Peace prize.
Source: Ralph Riegel for Irish Independent, 21/08/2013: http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/violence-will-never-triumph-over-human-rights-vows-brave-malala-as-she-gets-the-tipperary-international-peace-award-29515461.html