In 2009, private schools in Pakistan’s troubled northwestern Swat district were ordered to close by a Taliban edict banning girls’ education. About 150 schools had already been destroyed the year before. Here Malala Yousafzai, then in Grade 7, chronicled how the ban affected her and her classmates. The diary first appeared on BBC Urdu online in 2009.
SATURDAY JAN. 3: I AM AFRAID
I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taliban. I have had such dreams since the launch of the military operation in Swat. My mother made me breakfast and I went off to school. I was afraid going to school because the Taliban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools.
Only 11 students attended the class out of 27. The number decreased because of Taliban’s edict. My three friends have shifted to Peshawar, Lahore and Rawalpindi with their families after this edict.
On my way from school to home I heard a man saying "I will kill you." I hastened my pace and after a while I looked back if the man was still coming behind me. But to my utter relief he was talking on his mobile and must have been threatening someone else over the phone.
SUNDAY JAN. 4: I HAVE TO GO TO SCHOOL
Today is a holiday and I woke up late, around 10 a.m. I heard my father talking about another three bodies lying at Green Chowk [crossing]. I felt bad on hearing this news. Before the launch of the military operation we all used to go to Marghazar, Fiza Ghat and Kanju for picnics on Sundays. But now the situation is such that we have not been out on picnic for over a year and a half.
We also used to go for a walk after dinner but now we are back home before sunset. Today I did some household chores, my homework and played with my brother. But my heart was beating fast – as I have to go to school tomorrow.
MONDAY, JAN. 5: DO NOT WEAR COLOURFUL DRESSES
I was getting ready for school and about to wear my uniform when I remembered that our principal had told us not to wear uniforms – and come to school wearing normal clothes instead. So I decided to wear my favourite pink dress. Other girls in school were also wearing colourful dresses and the school presented a homely look.
Swat has been a centre of militant activity. My friend came to me and said, "For God’s sake, answer me honestly, is our school going to be attacked by the Taliban?" During the morning assembly we were told not to wear colourful clothes as the Taliban would object to it.
I came back from school and had tuition sessions after lunch. In the evening I switched on the TV and heard that curfew had been lifted from Shakardra after 15 days. I was happy to hear that because our English teacher lived in the area and she might be coming to school now.
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 7: NO FIRING OR FEAR
I have come to Bunair to spend Muharram [a Muslim holiday] on vacation. I adore Bunair because of its mountains and lush green fields. My Swat is also very beautiful but there is no peace. But in Bunair there is peace and tranquillity. Neither is there any firing nor any fear. We all are very happy.
Today we went to Pir Baba mausoleum and there were lots of people there. People are here to pray while we are here for an excursion. There are shops selling bangles, earrings, lockets and other artificial jewellery. I thought of buying something but nothing impressed – my mother bought earrings and bangles.
FRIDAY, JAN. 9: THE MAULANA GOES ON LEAVE?
Today at school I told my friends about my trip to Bunair. They said that they were sick and tired of hearing the Bunair story. We discussed the rumours about the death of Maulana Shah Dauran, who used to give speeches on FM radio. He was the one who announced the ban on girls attending school.
Some girls said that he was dead but others disagreed. The rumours of his death are circulating because he did not deliver a speech the night before on FM radio. One girl said that he had gone on leave.
Since there was no tuition on Friday, I played the whole afternoon. I switched on the TV in the evening and heard about the blasts in Lahore. I said to myself "why do these blasts keep happening in Pakistan?"
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 14 : I MAY NOT GO TO SCHOOL AGAIN
I was in a bad mood while going to school because winter vacations are starting from tomorrow. The principal announced the vacations but did not mention the date the school was to reopen. This was the first time this has happened.
In the past the reopening date was always announced clearly. The principal did not inform us about the reason behind not announcing the school reopening, but my guess was that the Taliban had announced a ban on girls’ education from January 15.
This time round, the girls were not too excited about vacations because they knew if the Taliban implemented their edict they would not be able to come to school again. Some girls were optimistic that the schools would reopen in February but others said that their parents had decided to shift from Swat and go to other cities for the sake of their education.
Since today was the last day of our school, we decided to play in the playground a bit longer. I am of the view that the school will one day reopen but while leaving I looked at the building as if I would not come here again.
THURSDAY, JAN. 15: NIGHT FILLED WITH ARTILLERY FIRE
The night was filled with the noise of artillery fire and I woke up three times. But since there was no school I got up later at 10 a.m. Afterwards, my friend came over and we discussed our homework.
The Taliban have repeatedly targeted schools in Swat. Today is 15 January, the last day before the Taliban’s edict comes into effect, and my friend was discussing homework as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
Today, I also read the diary written for the BBC [in Urdu] and published in the newspaper. My mother liked my pen name "Gul Makai" and said to my father, "why not change her name to Gul Makai?" I also like the name because my real name means "grief-stricken." My father said that some days ago someone brought the printout of this diary saying how wonderful it was. My father said that he smiled but could not even say that it was written by his daughter.
FRIDAY, JAN. 18: NO POLICE IN SIGHT
My father told us that the government would protect our schools. The prime minister has also raised this issue. I was quite happy initially, but now I know but this will not solve our problem. Here in Swat we hear everyday that so many soldiers were killed and so many were kidnapped at such and such place. But the police are nowhere to be seen.
Our parents are also very scared. They told us they would not send us to school until or unless the Taliban themselves announce on the FM channel that girls can go to school. The army is also responsible for the disruption in our education.
Today a boy from our locality went to school and he was told by the principal to go back home because a curfew was to be imposed soon. But when he reached home he came to know that there was no curfew, instead his school was closed down because the army was to move through the road near his school.
MONDAY, JAN. 19: ARMY IN THEIR BUNKERS
Five more schools have been destroyed, one of them was near my house. I am quite surprised, because these schools were closed so why did they also need to be destroyed? No one has gone to school following the deadline given by the Taliban.
The authorities are accused of doing little to protect schools. Today I went to my friend’s house and she told me that a few days back someone killed Maulana Shah Dauran’s uncle; she said that it may be that the Taliban destroyed the schools in anger at this.
She also said that no one has made the Taliban suffer but when they are hurt they take it out on our schools. But the army is not doing anything about it. They are sitting in their bunkers on top of the hills. They slaughter goats and eat with pleasure.
THURSDAY, JAN. 22: VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION
I am quite bored sitting at home following the closures of schools.
Some of my friends have left Swat because the situation here is very dangerous. I do not leave home. At night Maulana Shah Dauran [the Taliban cleric who announced the ban on girls attending school] once again warned females not to leave home.
The Taliban routinely carry out public floggings in Swat. He also warned that they would blow up those schools which are used by the security forces as security posts.
Father told us that security forces have arrived at the boys’ and girls’ school in Haji Baba area. May God keep them safe. Maulana Shah Dauran also said in his speech on FM radio that three "thieves" will be lashed tomorrow and whoever wants to see can come and watch.
I am surprised that when we have suffered so much, why people still go and watch such things? Why also doesn’t the army stop them from carrying out such acts? I have seen wherever the army is there is usually a Taliban member nearby, but where there is a Taliban member the army will always not go.
SATURDAY, JAN. 24: ‘MAKING A GRAVE’
The only good thing that has come out of the war in Swat is that our father has taken us away from Mingora (the largest city in the Swat valley) to many other cities. We arrived in Peshawar from Islamabad yesterday. In Peshawar we had tea at one of our relative’s houses before travelling to Bannu.
My five-year-old brother was playing on the lawn. When my father asked him what he was playing, he replied "I am making a grave."
Later we went to a bus stand to travel to Bannu. The wagon was old and the driver was using his horn excessively. On our way the vehicle hit a pot-hole – and at the same time the horn started blowing – waking up my 10-year-old brother.
He was very scared and asked our mother: "Was it a bomb blast?" On arrival in Bannu, we found my father’s friend waiting for us. He is also a Pashtun but his family spoke a Bannu dialect so we could not understand him clearly.
We went to the bazaar and then to the park. Here women have to wear a veil – called a shuttle veil – whenever they leave their homes. My mother also wore one but I refused to wear one on the grounds that I found it difficult to walk with it on.
Compared with Swat, there is relative peace in Bannu. Our hosts told us that there was a Taliban presence was in the area but there was not as much unrest as in Swat. They said that the Taliban had threatened to close down the schools, but they were still open.
SATURDAY, JAN. 24 : NO NAMES ON THE HONOURS BOARD
Our annual exams are due after the vacations but this will only be possible if the Taliban allow girls to go to school. We were told to prepare certain chapters for the exam but I do not feel like studying.
As from yesterday the army has taken control of the educational institutions for protection. It seems that it is only when dozens of schools have been destroyed and hundreds others closed down that the army thinks about protecting them. Had they conducted their operations here properly, this situation would not have arisen.
Muslim Khan [a Swat Taliban spokesman] has said that those schools housing the army would be attacked. We will be more afraid of having the army in our schools than ever. There is a board in our school which is called the Honours Board. The name of the girl achieving the highest marks in annual exams is put on this board. It seems that no names will be put on it this year.
MONDAY, JAN. 26 : HELICOPTER TOFFEES
I woke to the roar of heavy artillery fire early in the morning. Earlier we were afraid of the noise of helicopters and now the artillery. I remember the first time when helicopters flew over our house on the start of an operation. We got so scared that we hid.
The army is accused of not doing enough to protect schools. All the children in my neighbourhood were also very scared.
One day toffees were thrown from the helicopters and this continued for some time. Now whenever we hear the choppers flying we run out and wait for the toffees but it does not happen anymore. A while back my father gave us the good news that he was taking all of us to Islamabad tomorrow. We are very happy.
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 28: TEARS IN THE EYES OF MY PARENTS
My father fulfilled his promise and we reached Islamabad yesterday. On our way from Swat I was very scared because we had heard that the Taliban conduct searches. But nothing of the sort happened to us. It was instead the army who conducted the search. The moment we left Swat our fears also subsided.
Many are opposed to the militants’ policy of closing girls’ schools. We are staying with our father’s friend in Islamabad. It is my first visit to the city. It’s beautiful with nice bungalows and wide roads. But as compared to my Swat city it lacks natural beauty. Father took us to Lok Virsa museum and I learnt a lot. We also have such a museum in Swat but I don’t know if it will remain undamaged from the fighting.
My father bought popcorn from an old man outside Lok Virsa. When the vendor spoke to us in Pashto my father asked him if he was from Islamabad. The old man replied: “Do you think Islamabad can ever belong to Pashtuns?”
He said that he hailed from Momand Agency, but because of an ongoing military operation was forced to leave his abode and head for the city. At that moment I saw tears in my parents’ eyes.
SATURDAY, JAN. 31: WHO WILL AVENGE THOSE KILLED?
On our way back to Peshawar from Bannu I received a call from my friend.
Swat has been hard-hit by Islamic militancy. She was very scared and told me that the situation in Swat was getting worse and I should not come back. She told me that the military operation has intensified and 37 people have been killed only today in the shelling.
We arrived in Peshawar in the evening and were very tired. I switched on the TV and there was a report on Swat. The channel was showing empty-handed people migrating on foot from Swat.
I switched the channel and a woman was saying “we will avenge the murder of Benazir Bhutto." I asked my father who would avenge the deaths of hundreds of people of Swat.
MONDAY, FEB. 2: SCHOOL CLOSED ON TALIBAN ORDERS
I am upset because the schools are still closed here in Swat.
Our school was supposed to open today. On waking up I realised the school was still closed and that was very upsetting. In the past we used to enjoy ourselves on school closure. But this is not the case this time because I am afraid that the school may not reopen at all on the orders of the Taliban.
My father told me that following the closure of private girls’ schools, private schools for boys had decided not to open until 8 February. In this regard notices have appeared outside the schools saying that they will reopen on 9 February. My father said that because no such notices have been displayed outside girls’ schools, that meant they would not be reopening.
SATURDAY, FEB. 7 : EERIE SILENCE
My brother and myself left for Mingora in the afternoon. My mother had already gone there. I was happy and scared at the same time at the thought of going back after 20 days. Before entering Mingora, there was an eerie silence in Qambar.
There was no one else besides people with long hair and beards. From their appearance they looked like Taliban. I saw some houses damaged due to shelling.
The streets of Mingora were thin. We went to supermarket to buy a gift for our mother but it was closed, whereas earlier it used to remain open till late. Many other shops were also closed. We had not informed our mother about our plans to go back to Mingora because we wanted to surprise her. As we entered the house she was quite surprised.
SUNDAY, FEB. 8: SCHOOL MEMORIES
I am sad watching my uniform, school bag and geometry box. I felt hurt on opening my wardrobe and seeing my uniform, school bag and geometry box. Boys’ schools are opening tomorrow. But the Taliban have banned girls’ education.
The memories of my school flashed before me, especially the arguments among the girls.
My brother’s school is also reopening and he has not done his homework. He is worried and does not want to go to school. My mother mentioned a curfew tomorrow and my brother asked her if it was really going to be imposed. When my mother replied in the affirmative he started dancing with joy.
MONDAY, FEB. 9: PRECARIOUS
Boys’ schools in Swat have reopened and the Taliban have lifted restrictions on girls’ primary education – therefore they are also attending schools. In our school there is co-education until primary level.
My younger brother told us that out of 49 students only six attended his school including a girl. In my school, only a total of 70 pupils attended out of 700 students who are enrolled.
Today the maid came. She normally comes once a week to wash our clothes.
She comes from Attock district but she has been living in this area for years now. She told us that the situation in Swat has become “very precarious” and that her husband has told her to go back to Attock.
People do not leave their homeland on their own free will – only poverty or a lover usually makes you leave so rapidly.
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 11 : EXPLOSION WARNINGS
I was scared the whole day and also bored. We do not have a TV set now. There was a burglary in our house while we were away in Mingora for 20 days.
Earlier such incidents did not happen, but they have become rampant since the security situation in Mingora deteriorated so rapidly. Thank God there was no cash or gold in the house. My bracelet and anklet were also missing but I later found them. Maybe the burglar thought of them as gold ornaments but later found out they were artificial.
Maulana Fazlullah in a speech last night on his FM channel said that a recent attack on a police station in Mingora (the largest town in the Swat valley) was akin to a pressure cooker blast. He said that the next attack would resemble a cauldron exploding and after that a blast the size of a tanker exploding would take place.
At night my father updated us on the situation of Swat. These days we frequently use words like "army," "Taliban," "rocket," "artillery shelling," "Maulana Fazlullah," "Muslim Khan" (a militant leader), "police," "helicopter," "dead" and "injured."
THURSDAY, FEB. 12: HEAVY SHELLING
There was heavy shelling last night. Both my brothers were sleeping but I could not. I went to lie down with my father but then went to my mother, but could not sleep.
The closure of girls’ schools in Swat have angered many Pakistanis. That was why I also woke up late in the morning. In the afternoon I had tuition, then my teacher for religious education came. In the evening I continued playing with my brothers amid fighting and arguments. Also played games on computer for a while.
Before the Taliban imposed restrictions on the cable network, I used to watch the Star Plus TV channel and my favourite drama was Raja Kee Aye Gee Barat (My dream boy will come to marry me).
Today is Thursday and I am scared because people say that most suicide attacks take place either on Friday mornings or on Friday evenings. They also say that the reason behind this is is because the suicide attacker thinks that Friday has a special importance in Islam and carrying out such attacks on this day will please God more.
FRIDAY, FEB. 13: FAZLULLAH CRYING
Today the weather is good. It rained a lot and when it rains my valley looks more beautiful. As I got up in the morning, my mother told me about the murder of a rickshaw driver and a night watchman. Life is getting worse with the passage of each day.
Hundreds of people are arriving daily in Mingora from surrounding areas while residents of this city are moving to other areas. The rich have moved out of Swat while the poor have no place but to stay here.
We asked our cousin on the telephone to take us around the city in this splendid weather. He picked us up but when he came to the bazaar we found out that the markets were closed and the road wore a deserted look. We wanted to head towards the Qambar area but somebody told us a big procession has been brought out there.
That night Maulana Fazlullah (a pro-Taliban cleric) came on his radio and kept crying for a long time. He was demanding an end to the military operation. He asked people not to migrate but instead return to their homes.
SUNDAY, FEB. 15 : DON'T BE SCARED
Some guests from our village and Peshawar came today. When we were having lunch, firing started outside. I had never heard such firing. We got scared, thought that the Taliban had arrived. I ran towards my father who consoled me by telling me "Don't be scared - this is firing for peace."
He told me that he read in the newspaper that the government and the militants are to sign a peace deal tomorrow and he firing is in jubilation. Later, during the night when the Taliban announced the peace deal on their FM station, another spell of more stronger firing started. People believe more in what the militants say rather then the government.
When we heard the announcement, first my mother and then father started crying. My two younger brothers had tears in their eyes too.
MONDAY, FEB. 16: REOPENING?
Today I was very happy because the government and the militants were to sign a peace deal. Today the helicopters were flying very low too. One of my cousins remarked that with the gradual return of peace the choppers were coming down too.
In the afternoon people started distributing sweets. One of my friends called me to greet me. She said she hopes she could go out of her home now because she was imprisoned in her room for the last several months. We were also happy hoping the girls’ schools might open now.
TUESDAY, FEB. 17: HUSTLE AND BUSTLE
Today I started preparing for the examinations because after the peace deal there is a hope that girls’ schools could reopen. My teacher did not turn up today because she went to attend an engagement.
The people of Swat have become tired of the violence.
When I entered my room I saw my two brothers playing. One had a toy helicopter while the other had a pistol made of paper. One would yell “fire” and the other would say “take position”. One of my brothers told my father he wanted to make an atomic bomb.
Maulana Sufi Mohammad is in Swat today. The media are here too. The city is witnessing a lot of rush. The city's hustle and bustle has returned. May God help make this agreement successful. I am optimistic.
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 18: HOPE SMASHED
I went to the market today. It was crowded. People are happy about the deal. I saw a traffic jam after a long time. In the evening my father broke the news of the death of a Swat journalist (Musa Khankhel). Mom's is not feeling well. Our hopes of peace have been smashed.
THURSDAY, FEB. 19: PEACE NOT WAR
My father prepared breakfast today because my mum is not feeling well. She complained to my father, asking why did he tell her about the journalist's death? I told my brothers that we will not talk of war but peace from now on. We received the information from our school headmistress that examinations will be held in the first week of March. I have stepped up my studies.
BBC News website and BBC Urdu
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