Taliban Shooting Survivor Malala Yousafzai Meets Obama, Tells Him Drone Strikes ‘Fuel Terrorism’
Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who survived a Taliban assassination attempt, met with US President Barack Obama in the White House on Friday and told him that drone strikes kill innocent people and are “fueling terrorism.”
Yousafzai,16, met with the president, First Lady Michelle Obama and their 15-year-old daughter Malia. The Obamas had invited Yousafzai to the White House “to thank her for her inspiring and passionate work on behalf of girls education in Pakistan,” according to a White House statement.
“The United States joins with the Pakistani people and so many around the world to celebrate Malala’s courage and her determination to promote the right of all girls to attend school and realize their dreams,” the statement added.
Yousafzai said she was “honored” to meet Obama.
“I thanked President Obama for the United States’ work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees,” she said in a statement.
But the teen also criticized the United States’ use of unmanned aerial drones to target Islamic militants in her country, a practice that has claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians, including as many as 200 children.
“I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism,” Yousafzai’s statement added. “Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus on education it will make a big impact.”
Obama has repeatedly defended his drone policy, claiming such strikes are an essential tool in the war against terrorism and that they “have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties.”
At age 15, Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck as she returned home from school in her hometown of Mingora in the Swat District of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province last October. Pakistani Taliban militants, who oppose women’s rights and have banned girls from attending school in the areas of the Swat Valley under their control, claimed responsibility for the shooting, explaining that they targeted Yousafzai for promoting Western, secular values. The teen was flown to Britain, where she recovered and soon became one of the most famous young women in the world. She was named one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” by Time magazine, was awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize– renamed the National Malala Peace Prize– and, in 2013, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.