I Am Malala Questions and Answers
by Malala Yousafzai

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What is the code of the people in Swat Valley?

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Malala is from Swat Valley in Pakistan, and she is ethnically Pashtun. Traditionally, the Pashtun have lived by the Pashtunwali code for many centuries, as Malala mentions. The code calls for Pashtuns to live by melmastia , which is hospitality offered to others in need. Malala mentions how her house in Swat Valley was similar to a boarding house, because...

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Swat Valley

Swat Valley is one of 156 districts in Pakistan. Located in the province of Kyber Kakhtunkhwa, Swat is one of 32 local districts of predominately Muslim belief. The Yousafzai tribe is a Pashtun tribe with particular beliefs passed down through generations. These beliefs make up the main system, or code, of those who inhabit the district of Swat Valley.

Pashtunwali Ethical Code

The Pashtun tribe follows an ethical code, Paktunwalki or Pashtunwali, that outlines the way in which individuals should live. Pashtunwali is not a code written down in any legal format. However, it is abided by the follows of Pashtun to a strict degree. Pashtunwali holds its men in high esteem, higher than any other living man in the world. There are many pillars of the Pashtunwali code that its followers strictly adhere to.

Pillars of the Pashtunwali Code

Melmastia is one strong belief of Pashtunwali. This tenet, meaning hospitality, requires that any guest invited into the home of a Pashtun will not be hurt in any way or turned over to enemies.

Badal is the unlimited ability to avenge injustice against any wrongdoer. There is no time limit to seek revenge and can often last a lifetime or be passed on to other family members over generations. Because of its characteristic of vengeance, badal often leads to an alternate badal by the opposing party seeking their own form of revenge.

Nanawatai allows individuals to find refuge at any other person's home. They will then be safe from harm or ill will while they remain on the person's property.

Tureh is a form of bravery in which the honor of the family name is defended at all costs.

Sabat is a pillar that requires unending loyalty to those in community with the Pashtun tribe, whether family or friend.

Imandari is a belief that one must prove righteous and respectful in their actions and words at all times.

Ghairat connects with multiple pillars of the Pashtunwali code. Ghairat requires the show of courage at all times.

Namus requires that all men honor the chastity of women in their family. Pashtun men must honor and protect women and their sexual integrity.


These pillars are ones that the Pashtun people live by in every moment of their lives. Valuing these pillars is incredibly important and could mean death for some as they pursue fulfilling the Pashtunwali code.