In 2012, Malala was airlifted out of Pakistan’s Swat Valley in a coma; the young activist, who publicly advocated for girls’ right to an education, was targeted and shot by Taliban militants. For more than five years, Yousafzai stayed away from the Swat Valley, making a fresh start in the United Kingdom. But as the Agence France-Presse reports, the 20-year-old made an emotional return. She arrived there on Saturday in an Army helicopter and under heavy security.
Yousafzai’s brief visit to Mingora, the Swat Valley’s main town, came during her first visit to Pakistan since the attack that nearly ended her life. She met with friends and family in Mingora, and visited an all-boys school run by the military.
“I left Swat with my eyes closed and now I am back with my eyes open,” she told the AFP.
According to The Associated Press, Yousafzai also returned to her childhood home, where her former classmates were waiting for her. She “sobbed upon entering the home,” the AP reports, and said that she often looked at Pakistan on the map, in the hope that she would one day be able to return.
The Swat Valley was overrun by the Taliban in 2007, and though the extremist group was officially ousted by Pakistan’s army in 2009, militants continued violently enforce their extremist doctrine there. Conditions have improved drastically in recent years, but Yousafzai was nevertheless accompanied by heavy security during her visit to her hometown. The Taliban has warned that it would attack Malala again if the opportunity ever arose.
Earlier this month, an all-girls school built by Yousafzai’s Malala Fund opened in Shangla, a district northeast of Mingora. Yousafzai told the AFP that she could see how much the region where she grew up had changed — but also noted that up to 50 percent of children there do not attend school.
“We will have to work very hard to bring them all to school,” she said.
Yousafzai is currently studying at Oxford University. She has told Pakistani media that she plans to return to her country once she finishes her schooling. Below, watch video of Malala in an interview with the BBC in which she talks about make her return home.