For the first time, the Nobel Laureate and education campaigner Malala Yousafzai has met another teenager recovering in the UK after being shot at school by the Taliban.
Ahmed Nawaz, 14, was shot by terrorists during a massacre at a military school in Pakistan in December. Last night he was released from hospital in Birmingham, where doctors saved his left arm.
Malala was treated at the same hospital after being shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in 2012.
In the living room of the small terraced house where his family will live while he recovers, the two teenagers shared their experiences, and spoke of their shared determination that education must triumph over extremism.
“Ahmed is my brother,” Malala told ITV News.
“He has gone through the worst tragedy. But when I see strong boys like Ahmed who are still committed to continue their education and who believe that their dreams can come true, this gives me hope.”
Some 145 people – mostly children – were killed. He was sitting in the main auditorium when the terrorists burst in.
“Their first targets were the doors,” he said. “They were shooting at students who were trying to escape. When I saw this, I laid down. Then they started, one by one, killing the students.
“They were shooting every student in the head.”
Ahmed hid under a chair and was shot in the arm. He played dead, despite the pain, to stay alive.
“After some time, the terrorists came again and started shooting the injured students and students who were shouting from pain. I tried to keep myself quiet because if I shout they will kill me.
“I was looking at my friends who’d been shot in the head, in the chest, and were dead. I was very afraid, I was very scared.”
Ahmed managed to escape, but learned later that his younger brother, Haris, 13, was one of those killed in the attack.
“I miss him a lot because he was not just my brother, he was my friend also. But sometimes when I feel sad for him, my heart says to me that he died for his country, he has died for education. And then I feel proud of him.”
Ahmed suffered severe nerve damage in his left arm, and spent two months in hospital in Pakistan, before being flown to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham last month. He underwent a 14-hour operation to save his arm, and will stay in the UK for at least six months for rehabilitation.
His family has continued to receive death threats from the Taliban for speaking out against the terrorism, but Ahmed, like Malala, is determined to stand up to them.
“I think that education is very important and I have faith that the pen is more powerful than bullets. We are not scared of terrorists.”
Ahmed says his ambition is to become an officer in the Pakistani Army, to fight the Taliban in his country. But he also wants to work with Malala to campaign for the right to education for all children.
“Change is going to come in our society,” she said. “Every child is going to get quality education because we have strong children like Ahmed.”