I Am Malala

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Malala Yousafzai

The author and central figure of I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzai is a strong, intelligent, and intensely passionate crusader for women’s rights and the right to free education. During the course of the book… (read full character analysis)

Ziauddin Yousafzai

Malala’s father and role model, Ziauddin is an educated, articulate, and charismatic man who passes on to his daughter a passion for freedom, education, and equality. As a child, Ziauddin is afflicted with a… (read full character analysis)

Tor Pekai Yousafzai

Malala’s mother, Tor Pekai, is a loving parent, though she lacks the necessary education to inspire her daughter as Ziauddin, her husband, does. She is intensely religious, and always prays five times a… (read full character analysis)

Khushal Yousafzai

Malala’s younger brother Khushal is a minor character in the book. He isn’t especially close with Malala, and attends school in another town for much of the time when Malala is becoming involved in… (read full character analysis)

Malka e-Noor

Malala’s classmate and “rival” for success in the classroom, Malka e-Noor is as intelligent, or almost as intelligent, as Malala—yet she doesn’t fight for education or women’s rights, as Malala does. Her presence in… (read full character analysis)
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Rohul Amin

Ziauddin’s father, Rohul Amin is an intimidatingly charismatic and articulate man. Growing up, Ziauddin is always terrified by his father, as his own embarrassing stutter stands in stark contrast with Rohul Amin’s eloquence. Rohul… (read full character analysis)


A college friend of Ziauddin, with whom Ziauddin founds the Khushal School. While Hidayatullah plays an important part in making the Khushal School a success, he eventually becomes fed up with the slow progress… (read full character analysis)

Benazir Bhutto

The first female prime minister of Pakistan, a rival of General Pervez Musharraf, and an important role model for Malala. Benazir Bhutto is a talented and charismatic politician who uses her influence to… (read full character analysis)

General Pervez Musharraf

One of the key Pakistani leaders of Malala’s lifetime, General Pervez Musharraf is a brutal, untrustworthy, but undeniably talented politician. A military leader by training, he maintains control of the country for eleven years… (read full character analysis)


A young girl, the same age as Malala, who lives in Malala’s community. Safina unknowingly plays an important part in Malala’s moral development: when Malala suspects that Safina has stolen her toy telephone, Malala… (read full character analysis)

Raymond Davis

An American diplomat and supposed CIA agent who’s arrested in Pakistan after shooting two Muslims who he claimed were harassing him. Davis’s arrest causes relations between America and Pakistan to deteriorate in the early 2010s… (read full character analysis)

Malauna Fazlullah

Malauna Fazlullah is an influential Muslim leader and one of the first outspoken advocates for the Taliban in Pakistan. At the beginning of his public career, Fazlullah bills himself as a moderate, calling for a… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
Atal Yousafzai
Malala’s youngest brother (seven years younger than she), Atal isn’t a major character in I Am Malala, despite his blood ties to Malala herself. He’s depicted as a rambunctious young boy, more interested in games and jokes than rights and education (understandably, considering his age).
Usman Bhai Jan
The man who drives children in Mingora to school, and the man who’s driving the bus when a Taliban soldier shoots Malala.
Malala’s best friend in the town of Mingora, Moniba is an intelligent student, who is often runner-up to Malala in her exam scores. She’s shown to be brave and interested in politics, two qualities that endear her to Malala.
A fellow student of Malala, who is injured by the Taliban soldier who shoots Malala.
Kainat Riaz
A fellow student of Malala, who is injured by the Taliban soldier who shoots Malala.
Jehan Sher Khan Yousafzai
Ziauddin’s cousin, and one of the only family members who celebrates Malala’s birth.
A prominent military and political leader who controlled the Swati Valley during its supposed “Golden Age,” the period between 1945 and 1969.
Nasir Pacha
A friend of Ziauddin’s brother-in-law, who was instrumental in helping Ziauddin continue his education at an advanced level.
Khushal Khan Khattak
A renowned Pakistani poet, and the namesake of Ziauddin’s Khushal School, as well as the namesake of Khushal, Ziauddin’s son.
Mohammed Naeem Khan
A long-time friend of Ziauddin, with whom Ziauddin makes plans to found a school. Mohammed becomes irritated with Ziauddin when they run into difficulties raising money, and they part on bad terms.
A girl in Malala’s community who makes eloquent speeches, and inspires Malala to make speeches of her own.
A mufti (Islamic scholar) who lives in Malala’s town of Mingora. He repeatedly tries to force Ziauddin to shut down his school, on the grounds that it’s sacrilegious to educate women.
President Asif Zardari
Benazir Bhutto’s successor as the president of Pakistan, Asif Zardari appears toward the end of I Am Malala, where he’s instrumental in first delaying, then paying for Malala’s transportation to England and her medical treatment there.
Abdul Gai Kakar
An influential BBC reporter who publishes information about women’s lives under the Taliban, and, thanks to Ziauddin, arranges for Malala to write a diary about her life.
Adam Ellick
An American reporter for the New York Times who produces a documentary about women’s lives under the Taliban and shoots footage of Malala.
Shiza Shahid
An acquaintance of Ziauddin who brings Malala to Islamabad, where Malala is exposed to Western culture, and to a society that encourages women to be educated and empowered.
Asia Bibi
A Christian woman living in Pakistan who is controversially sentenced to death for criticizing Islam.
Aunt Najma
An aunt of Malala, who lives in a seaside city but, thanks to repressive laws for women, has never seen the ocean.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah
The renowned founder of Pakistan, whose tomb Malala visits during the course of her visit to the city of Karachi.
Shehla Anjum
A reporter who warns Malala that the Taliban are trying to kill her.
A young boy, only slightly older than Malala, who tells Malala that he loves her.
Miss Shazia
A math teacher at Malala’s school who claims to have had a premonition about Malala’s attack.
General Kayani
An important chief in the Pakistani army (no relation to Javid Kayani), who, following Malala’s shooting, arranges for Malala to be treated in a Pakistani military hospital, and later plays an important role in delaying Malala’s transportation to superior medical facilities in England.
Dr. Fiona Reynolds
A British doctor who travels to Pakistan to treat Malala following her shooting by the Taliban. She strongly encourages doctors to transport Malala to superior medical facilities, and later becomes Malala’s guardian when Malala is transported to England.
Dr. Javid Kayani
An English doctor who travels to Pakistan to treat Malala following her shooting by the Taliban. He later becomes one of her most frequent companions when she’s in a hospital in Birmingham. (No relation to General Kayani.)
Arfa Karim
A young woman who speaks out for women’s rights alongside Malala.
A Muslim chaplain who visits Malala during her time in the Birmingham hospital.
Rehman Malik
The Pakistani interior minister, Rehman Malik delays Malala’s treatment in England after she’s shot by the Taliban, because he doesn’t want to embarrass Pakistan. He’s also concerned that Malala will seek political asylum in England, which would be even more embarrassing for his country.
Ataullah Khan
A Taliban soldier who takes credit for shooting Malala, and is, at the end of I Am Malala, still at large.
Adnan Rashid
A Taliban soldier who was arrested for trying to assassinate President Musharraf in 2003. He later writes a letter to Malala, in which he expresses his shock that the Taliban tried to kill her.
Nawaz Sharif
An intermittent prime minister of Pakistan in the late 90s and early 2000s.
Colonel Junaid
A young but highly experienced doctor who saves Malala’s life by performing a complicated surgery after she’s shot in the head.
William Hague
The British foreign minister.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed
The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates.
Gordon Brown
The former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the U.N. special envoy for education, later an important ally of Malala and Ziauddin.
Faiz Muhammed
The brother of Tor Pekai, and an important influence on Ziauddin’s moral education.
General Zia ul-Haq
The dictator of Pakistan at the end of the Cold War, General Zia ul-Haq was an important factor in promoting religious extremism in his country, and thus encouraging the rise of the Taliban.
Barack Obama
The 44th President of the United States, and a hero of Malala.
Ban Ki-moon
The secretary general of the United Nations.
A legendary heroine of the Pashtuns, Malala’s ethnic group, Malalai is Malala’s namesake. In the 19th century, Malalai led the Pashtuns in a successful uprising against the British Empire, resulting in one of the only defeats in the Empire’s long history.
Khan Abdul Ghaffer Khan
A poet, philosopher, and disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, whose writings influence Malala in her commitment to peace, freedom, and education.
Madam Maryam
The principal of Malala’s school.
Aunt Babo
Malala’s aunt, who is killed by her doctor when she goes in for treatment.
Major General Athar Abbas
The commander of the Pakistani army, and a (sometimes) reluctant ally of Malala in the second half of the memoir.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani
The Prime Minister of Pakistan, criticized by Malala for his lack of interest in women’s rights.
Zahid Khan
And old friend of Ziauddin, attacked and nearly murdered by the Taliban in 2009.