Malala Yousafzai (centre) at Oxford


by Amit Roy

IF THE Taliban had had their way, Malala Yousafzai – who wanted nothing more than for girls to be able to go to school – would have been dead in 2012.

Instead, she seems to be having fun as a second-year undergraduate reading philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. Before she knows, her
Oxford days will be over.

What next?

Her collection of stories about refugees, We Are Displaced, is BBC Radio 4’s “Book of the Week”. This first extract is about “the events that drove Malala from her home in the Swat Valley, Pakistan, and how she came to be in a hospital bed in Birmingham”. That she
survived after a Taliban gunman shot her in the head is a medical miracle. Perhaps she has miles to go before she sleeps.

There is a prologue recorded by Malala, but otherwise the readings are by Lisa Zahra, who describes herself as a “Welsh actress with Middle Eastern heritage”.

In a recent interview, Malala said: “Today, there are more than 130 million girls who are out of school around the world. Many are forced to marry as young as 11 or 12
years old, so instead of learning, they are cooking, cleaning and raising children of their own.”

Last week it was revealed that when the Foreign Office rescues girls from forced marriages, they are made to pay for their return passage back home to the UK. My views are reflected in a Financial Times article, which said the Foreign Office “overlooks the unique
vulnerability of these girls”.

I agree totally with the FT: “It would surely be fairer to recoup the money from the families who arranged these appalling abuses.”

As home secretary, Sajid Javid could be much tougher than any of his white predecessors. He has already shown a willingness to deport members of grooming gangs. The problem of forced marriages could be resolved overnight if the government stripped guilty parents
and other involved relatives of their British nationality and deported them to their countries of origin.

A couple of high-profile deportations and the problem of forced marriages would cease to exist.