March 29 (UPI) — Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani Nobel laureate and education activist, returned to her home country Thursday for the first time since an assassination attempt by the Taliban six years ago.
Yousafzai, now a student at Britain’s Oxford University, landed at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport early Thursday and checked in a hotel with strict security.
The education activist held meetings with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and other high-profile figures.
Yousafzai, accompanied by her parents, was also set to participate in a “Meet the Malala” program during her four-day stay in Pakistan.
When she was a teenager, Yousafzai was critically hurt after being shot at point-blank range in October 2012 by Taliban gunmen as she returned home from school.
She was treated at several military hospitals in Pakistan and ultimately sent to Britain.
Yousafzai was specifically targeted by the Taliban — who said they would target her again if she survived — because of her public campaigns in favor of female education.
“I’m not very old but I’ve seen a lot,” Yousafzai said following a meeting with Abbasi Thursday. “I couldn’t control what happened, if it was my choice I wouldn’t have left my country at all. I had no choice, I had to leave for my life.”
Abbasi said he was “so happy that our child who has earned so much fame internationally has come home.”
“You represent us in the world and especially of the youth and girls and the work you’ve done for education of girls,” he added. “It is our dream and prayers that you are successful, our prayers with you. Welcome home Malala!”
Since the shooting, Yousafzai has become an international symbol of resistance to the Taliban’s efforts of denying women and girls education. In 2014, she became the youngest Nobel Prize winner and the youngest United Nations Messenger of Peace.
In January, Yousafzai said she hoped to return to Pakistan.
“It is just so hard if you haven’t seen your home, your relatives, your friends,” she said, adding she wanted her feet to “touch that land.”