U.S. Drone Attacks Fuel Terrorism, Nobel Prize Winner, Malala Yousafzai Tells Obama

McClatchy Washington Bureau

McClatchyDC — The teenager who became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize Friday told President Barack Obama at a White House meeting last year that she worried about the effect of U.S. drone strikes.

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, as well as Kailash Satyarthi of India, for pushing for young people’s rights, including the right to education.

Malala, now 17, made international headlines after being shot in the head by the Taliban on a school bus two years ago for promoting education for girls in Pakistan. After recovering, she took her campaign for children’s education across the world, writing a book and even speaking at the United Nations last year.

After she found out she won, Malala delivered a statement after classes ended Friday at her school in Birmingham, England. She thanked her parents, especially her father, for “not clipping my wings.”

“A girl is not supposed to be the slave…A girl has the power to go forward in her life,” she said on CNN. “She’s not only a mother, she’s not only a sister, she’s not only a wife…She should have an identity. She should be recognized and she has equal rights as a boy.”

She said she found out she won from a teacher while she was in chemistry class Friday morning at about 10:15 a.m.

“I felt very honored. I felt more powerful and more courageous,” she said. “This is really an encouragement me to go forward.”

In October 2013, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama met with her in the Oval Office “to thank her for her inspiring and passionate work on behalf of girls education in Pakistan.”

But in a statement released after the meeting, Malala said she was honored to have met with Obama, but that she told him she’s worried about the effect of U.S. drone strikes. (The White House statement didn’t mention that part.)

“I thanked President Obama for the United States’ work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees,” she said in the statement. “I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”

At the time, the White House said 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.”

On Friday afternoon, Obama issued a statement congratulating the two winners of Nobel Peace Prize.

“At just 17 years old, Malala Yousafzai has inspired people around the world with her passion and determination to make sure girls everywhere can get an education,” he said. “When the Taliban tried to silence her, Malala answered their brutality with strength and resolve. Michelle and I were proud to welcome this remarkable young woman to the Oval Office last year. We were awe-struck by her courage and filled with hope knowing this is only the beginning of her extraordinary efforts to make the world a better place.”

Obama said the two receipients “have faced down threats and intimidation, risking their own lives to save others and build a better world for future generations.”

“They come from different countries, religious backgrounds, and generations—a Muslim and a Hindu, a Pakistani and an Indian – but they share an unyielding commitment to justice and an unshakeable belief in the basic dignity of every girl and boy,” he said.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also congratulated Malala in a statement Friday, according to several published reports.

“She is (the) pride of Pakistan, she has made her countrymen proud,” he said. “Her achievement is unparalleled and unequaled. Girls and boys of the world should take lead from her struggle and commitment.”