Malala Yousafzai returned to her home country of Pakistan for the first time since the Taliban attempted to assassinate her in 2012.
The girls’ education activist landed in Pakistan early Thursday morning with her brother and father. The 20-year-old Nobel Prize laureate met with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in Islamabad where Abbasi and other government officials honored Yousafzai during a small ceremony.
“Welcome home,” Abbasi told Yousafzai during a press conference, Reuters reported. “We are very happy that our daughter has come back. When she went away, she was a child of 12. She has returned as the most prominent citizen of Pakistan.”
Shortly after, Yousafzai gave an emotional speech on national television as she wiped tears from her eyes.
“I am very happy today, that after five and a half years I have set foot on my soil, in my nation again,” she said, according to Al Jazeera.
“For the last five years I’ve dreamed that I can set foot in my country,” she said in clip captured by ABC News. “Whenever I travel in place, car, I see the cities of London, New York; I was told ’Just imagine you are in Pakistan, you are traveling in Islamabad, that you are in Karachi.′ It was never true. But now today I see [that] I am very happy.”
As the audience broke out into applause, Yousafzai began to cry and paused to cup her hands over her face.
“I don’t normally cry,” she continued. “I’m still 20 years old but I’ve seen so many things in life.”
Yousafzai may visit her childhood home in Swat Valley if security threats don’t prevent her from traveling.
She was just 15 when members of the Taliban shot her and two other classmates on a school bus as they made their way home from school. After the attack, the Taliban, which has condemned female education, vowed to kill Yousafzai if she ever returned to Pakistan. Details of her visit, like her location, have not been publicly confirmed for security reasons.
Days before her surprise visit to Pakistan, Yousafzai tweeted about her home country: “On this day, I cherish fond memories of home, of playing cricket on rooftops and singing the national anthem in school. Happy Pakistan Day!”
The human rights advocate currently attends Oxford University and is about to publish her third book titled We Are Displaced: True Stories Of Refugee Lives.
Fans and fellow Pakistanis welcomed the young activist back to her home country on Twitter.