According to media, in Oct 2012, Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was shot by Taliban soldiers, and the bullet went through her head. She was taken to the UK where she underwent brain surgery. However, literally, not even a hair was cut.

Was she shot in the head?

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    Welcome to Skeptics! Your claim that not even a hair was cut seems to be quite extraordinary. Where did you get that idea? Also, what sort of evidence would convince you? If you don't trust media reports, what would you trust?
    – Oddthinking
    Apr 11 '17 at 11:01
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    @DavePhD: Sure, the bullet, but not the surgery. Quoting from the BBC link "The procedure began with shaving part of Malala's hair, and then cutting away the bone, "
    – Oddthinking
    Apr 11 '17 at 11:15
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    However her hair was cut, well shaved, for the surgery. "The procedure began with shaving part of Malala's hair". Mainly the bullet mushed up some pretty necessary stuff on its path through her head and that is why the surgery was needed. DAMMIT you beat me by 8 seconds!
    – daniel
    Apr 11 '17 at 11:15
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    @daniel: I got notified, so I got a head-start!
    – Oddthinking
    Apr 11 '17 at 11:16
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    I think this question could be improved if there were a citation of a large number of people denying Malala was shot. Considering the lengths apologists will go to, I don't see that as too difficult a task.
    – JasonR
    Apr 11 '17 at 20:55

According to The 72 Hours That Saved Malala: Doctors Reveal for the First Time How Close She Came to Death

The gunman ... asked for Malala by name, then pointed a Colt 45 and fired three shots. One bullet hit the left side of Malala's forehead, traveled under her skin the length of her face and then into her shoulder.


In the hospital, army neurosurgeon Col. Junaid Khan told ABC/BBC News that Malala was conscious but "restless and agitated." She seemed stable, and Khan kept a close eye on her.

Four hours later, though, her condition deteriorated. Khan realized the bullet had caused Yousafzai's brain to swell and that she needed emergency surgery to remove a portion of her skull to relieve the pressure.


"The part of the brain that was involved was concerned not only with speech, not only the speech centers but also those centers which are involved in controlling or giving power to the right arm and right leg," Khan said in an interview. "So contemplating surgery in this very sensitive area can have risks in terms of ... losing the speech or losing the power in the opposite part of the body, meaning the person can be paralyzed afterward."

Khan pushed Malala's father for permission. "There are risks," Khan said, "but if you foresee that this patient warrants an operation and if you don't do an operation, she will lose her life, then you're going to take all the chances."

The craniotomy began after midnight. Khan and his team removed a portion of her skull, removed blood clots on her brain and put Malala on a ventilator.

enter image description here

(image source)

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(source CBS news)

So it was a 45 caliber handgun bullet that entered her face on a downward trajectory and then entered the shoulder.

Also, according to Cranial surgery without head shaving Journal of Cranio-Maxillofacial Surgery vol. 37, pages 477–480 (2009):

Based on a series of 632 patients who underwent craniotomy without head shaving, we report the efficacy and safety of our simplified procedure

So it is entirely possible that when she had her craniotomy in Pakistan, little hair was removed.

  • Thank you for your answer! How can one be assured that these images are of Malala? Portion of skull being removed is something which would be visible on exterior as well. Can you please post any image showing affects of this? Apr 12 '17 at 3:10
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    My wife had a third of her skull removed three months ago and today the scars are almost hidden by the regrown hair. Based on this I do not think effects of craniectomy are all that visible, especially with someone who habitually wears a headscarf.
    – user21930
    Apr 12 '17 at 11:41
  • @TalhaIrfan I added a journal article explaining that it is unnecessary to remove hair for a craniotomy. There is a photograph that shows how difficult it is to see that anything was done. Maybe for the first operation in Pakistan there was little hair removed.
    – DavePhD
    Apr 12 '17 at 13:17
  • @TalhaIrfan: What evidence would convince you? Apr 12 '17 at 20:46
  • @TalhaIrfan: Note that with long hair, it is hard to see a several cm wide device that attached to the outside of the head like a cochlear implant (cochlearimplanthelp.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/…), not to mention the scars from the head surgery used to implant the rest of the device inside the head. Apr 12 '17 at 20:52

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