MIRAMSHAH / STRASBOURG: Teenage education activist Malala Yousafzai won the European Union’s prestigious Sakharov human rights prize on Thursday, drawing a fresh threat of murder by the Taliban.
To a thunderous applause announcing the European Parliament prize, the assembly’s president Martin Schulz said, “Malala bravely stands for the right of all children to be granted a fair education. This right for girls is far too commonly neglected.”
The parliament’s vote for Malala from a shortlist of three nominees “acknowledges the incredible strength of this young woman,” Schulz added. She beat fugitive and US intelligence analyst Edward Snowden.
“She is an icon of courage for all teenagers who dare to pursue their aspirations and, like a candle, she lights a path out of darkness,” said Joseph Daul, chairman of the centre-right European People’s Party in the European Parliament.
However, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) immediately vowed a fresh attempt on her life “even in America or the UK.”
“She has done nothing,” said TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid. “She is getting awards because she is working against Islam.”
Meanwhile, TTP claims it will also target the business circle who try to sell her autobiography I am Malala. Talking to the media from an unknown location on Thursday, Shahid said, “Malala has shunned Islam and adopted secularism.”
Malala started her campaigning by writing blogs in 2009 in which she described how the Taliban prevented girls like her from going to school. Her growing profile attracted the Taliban’s attention and led to frequent death threats, which led to the attack in October last year.
“I was not worried about myself that much. I was worried about my father. We could not believe they would be so cruel as to kill a child, as I was 14 at the time,” she said in an American television interview with “The Daily Show” on Tuesday.
She was taken to Britain for treatment in the wake of last year’s attack and now goes to school in Birmingham.
The Sakharov prize
Even though it was announced on Thursday, Malala will be handed over the 50,000-euro ($65,000) Sakharov prize at a ceremony in Strasbourg on November 20.
The Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought has been awarded by the European Parliament each year since 1988 to commemorate Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov. Malala was chosen by a vote among the heads of all the political groups in the 750-member parliament.
Past winners include South African anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela and former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.
Three jailed Belarussian dissidents, along with Edward Snowden, had also been shortlisted for the EU’s Sakharov prize.
Last year’s award went to detained Iranians, lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and film-maker Jafar Panahi, to honour those “standing up for a better Iran.”
Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is to finally receive the Sakharov prize she won in 1990 at the height of the Myanmar military crackdown, the European Parliament said this week.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2013.