OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A human rights activist who founded an all-girls school in Pakistan and his 15-year-old daughter who was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman will receive the 2013 Reflections of Hope Award from the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.
Memorial officials said Thursday they will honor Malala Yousufzai and her father, Ziauddin Yousufzai, at a reception and dinner on April 8 in advance of the 18th anniversary of the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people and injured hundreds more.
Ziauddin Yousufzai receive the award on his and his daughter’s behalf during his first trip to the United States since the Taliban’s October assassination attempt on Malala, according to memorial officials. His remarks will be telecast globally from Oklahoma City.
The memorial’s executive director, Kari Watkins, said Malala and her father are being honored for the hope they have displayed in the face of political violence.
“We chose her because she stands for exactly what the award represents,” Watkins said Thursday. “Hope can survive and blossom despite tragedy and chaos.”
The memorial included Yousufzai , an educator, as a co-recipient because he inspired his daughter to get an education and has been her mentor, she said.
Seventeen years ago, Yousufzai 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 outspoken activist who attended the school until Oct. 9, when the Taliban shot her in the head 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 has captured global attention for the struggle for women’s rights in her homeland. Malala was airlifted to Britain from Pakistan in October to receive specialized medical care and protection against further Taliban threats. She had surgery there Saturday to reconstruct her skull.
In a statement released by the memorial, Yousufzai said he and his daughter are grateful to have been chosen to receive the Reflections of Hope Award.
“Many thousands of people from around the world have reached out to our family to express their support and love, and it is extremely touching to know that the people of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum are among them,” he said.
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. Timothy McVeigh was convicted on federal murder charges for the deadly bombing and was executed in 2001.
The Oklahoma City bombing was the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
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