Pakistani girl shot by Taliban to get OKC honors

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Last October, a 15-year-old Pakistani girl who was an outspoken advocate for education for all Pakistani girls was shot in the head and neck by Taliban gunmen who were intent on killing her.

On Monday, the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum will bestow its highest honor to the young girl who survived the attack, Malala Yousafzai, and her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, a human rights activist and founder of an all-girls school in Pakistan.

The 2013 Reflections of Hope Award will be presented to the Yousafzais in recognition of the hope they have displayed in the face of political violence, said Kari Watkins, executive director of the memorial and museum that honors the 168 victims of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

"One opportunity that extends from our core mission to educate about the impact of violence is to increase our role as an advocate for violence prevention in Oklahoma City and throughout the world," Watkins said.

"In the hands of courageous and resilient leaders like Ziauddin and Malala Yousafzai, I can think of no better tool than education to disarm violence, and eventually construct a peaceful landscape for generations to come," she said.

Ziauddin Yousafzai plans to receive the award on his and his daughter's behalf during his first trip to the United States since the Taliban's assassination attempt on Malala, who has been receiving medical treatment in Great Britain. She returned to school there in March for the first time since she was targeted.

Seventeen years ago, Ziauddin Yousafzai founded the all-girls Khushal Public School, an institution he still directs. It was created to foster female leadership in an area where the Taliban has banned girls from attending school.

Malala was herself an activist who attended the school until Oct. 9, when the Taliban shot her on the school bus she was riding home from classes. The Islamist group said it targeted her because she promoted girls' education and "Western thinking" and criticized the militant group's behavior when it took over the scenic Swat Valley where she lived.

The shooting sparked outrage in Pakistan and many other countries, and Malala's story captured global attention for the struggle for women's rights in her homeland. Malala was airlifted to Britain from Pakistan to receive specialized medical care and protection against further Taliban threats. In February, she had surgery to reconstruct her skull.

Established in 2005, the Reflections of Hope Award recognizes a person or organization that has worked in a spirit of peace and nonviolence to better the lives of those around them, despite operating in an environment of political violence, according to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum's website.

Past recipients include former President Bill Clinton, who was president when the Oklahoma City bombing occurred, the Rev. Alex Reid of Dublin, Ireland, who was honored for his life's work in the peace process in Northern Ireland, and Durga Ghimire, co-founder of the Tamakoshi Service Society, a community-based organization dedicated to improving the lives of marginalized people in Ramechhap, Nepal.

The memorial is located on the former site of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which was destroyed by a truck bomb in a domestic terrorism attack on April 19, 1995. Timothy McVeigh was convicted on federal murder charges for the deadly bombing and was executed in 2001. A co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, was convicted of federal and state bombing-related charges and is serving multiple life sentences in federal prison.

The Oklahoma City bombing was the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

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