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Malala Yousafzai: Accolades, applause and a grim milestone

By Ben Brumfield and David Simpson, CNN
updated 6:38 PM EDT, Wed October 9, 2013
Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for girls education who was shot in 2012, is still a Taliban target.
Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for girls education who was shot in 2012, is still a Taliban target.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Malala marks the anniversary of her shooting with a book about her life
  • Taliban still want her dead, spokesman says
  • She is a popular favorite for the Nobel Peace Prize
  • She angered the Taliban by blogging against their suppression of education

Editor's note: See a side to Malala you haven't seen before in Christiane Amanpour's special interview, The Bravest Girl in the World, on CNN Sunday, October 13, 7pm ET. The program, recorded with a studio audience, will include exclusive material.

(CNN) -- A year ago Wednesday, Malala Yousafzai was riding the bus home from school when a Taliban gunman climbed aboard and shot her in the head. She nearly died.

Now, the 16-year-old advocate for girls' education is a popular favorite for the Nobel Peace Prize to be awarded Friday.

To mark the anniversary of the shooting, her memoir, "I am Malala," came out Tuesday. The phrase has become a battle cry for the right to an education around the world.

The memoir follows her odyssey from near-death to global fame in just a year's time. It also gives a vivid account of her everyday life in Pakistan's Swat Valley and how she developed a love for education.

Her public fight to get that education and for the right of girls to get one, too, is what put her at odds with the Pakistani Taliban.

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They banned girls from schools in the Swat Valley in 2009. Malala anonymously blogged for the BBC in opposition to that order, drawing the Islamist militants' rage.

Malala turns the other cheek to the Taliban

New threat

The Taliban renewed their death threat against her Monday.

Spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said the teenager was targeted because she was used in propaganda against the Taliban.

"If there is any opportunity we can target, she would be on our hit list again."

The Taliban have denied Malala was targeted for promoting education for girls.

"Taliban are not opposed to girls education, if it's within the ambit of Shariah and Islamic education, but they could not support anti-Islamic agendas and Westernized education systems," Shahid said.

The militant group destroyed over 170 schools between 2007 and 2009, the U.N. said.

Malala answers

In an interview with Malala on "The Daily Show" on Tuesday, Jon Stewart asked her what she would do if a Taliban assassin came calling again.

"I'll tell him how important education is, and that I even want education for your children as well," she said Tuesday. And I would tell him, 'that's what I want to tell you, now do what you want.'"

Fighting the Taliban is important, but through peace, dialogue and education, she said.

But the Taliban often prefer to let their guns do the talking.

Malala has lived outside of her homeland ever since she was shot last year.

Malala at U.N.: The Taliban failed to silence us

Her odyssey

The gunman who climbed on board that school bus wounded Malala in the head and neck. The driver hit the gas. The assailants got away.

Malala was left in critical condition.

Doctors fought to save her life, then her condition took a dip. They operated to remove a bullet from her neck, and as brain swelling threatened her life, a surgical team cut out a section of her skull to relieve the pressure. After surgery, she was unresponsive for three days.

She was flown to the U.K. for intensive medical treatment and multiple surgeries to repair the damage the bullets had done.

Doctors there covered the large hole in her skull with a titanium plate. Malala has kept the piece of skull that had been removed as a souvenir of her fight.

It is nothing short of a miracle that the teen education advocate is still alive and even more astounding that she suffered no major brain or nerve damage.

Global stage

The attempt on Malala's life propelled her and her cause onto the global stage.

Beyond her hospital room in her new home in the UK, a world sympathetic with her ordeal transformed her into a global symbol.

An avalanche of support poured in, including from world leaders.

The U.N. started a global education program for girls called "I am Malala," the name she has chosen for her biography.

This year, the Malala Fund was created to support education for girls around the world.

She recovered and addressed the United Nations in New York on her 16th birthday, July 12.

"They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed," she said. "And then, out of that silence, came thousands of voices."

Gordon Brown: How Malala forced terrorists onto defensive

Taliban to Malala: Why we shot you

CNN's Max Foster contributed to this report.

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