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24th Feb 2024

Pakistani schoolgirl wins EU rights prize

  • Yousafzai at a UN event. The Taliban says it still wants to kill her (Photo: un.org)

Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai has won the EU's 2013 Sakharov prize for "freedom of thought."

Political chiefs in the European Parliament announced the decision on Thursday (10 October), amid speculation she will also win the Nobel peace prize on Friday.

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Guy Verhofstadt, a Belgian Liberal MEP whose group nominated her for the Sakharov award, said she "is an inspiration to every man, woman and child."

Charles Tannock, a British Conservative deputy, noted: "the Taliban tried to silence Malala, but their violence and hatred has only made her stronger."

Yousafzai, now 16 years old and living in the UK, survived an attempted murder in Pakistan's Swat Valley on 9 October 2012.

A gunman from the Islamist Taliban militia shot her in the head for promoting the right of girls to go to school in a blog hosted by the British state broadcaster, the BBC.

She started blogging on the subject in 2009, aged just 11.

A Taliban spokesman told the BBC on Wednesday that she is still a target because she continues to speak out against its version of Islamic law.

Two nominations which narrowly missed the EU prize were US whistleblower Edward Snowden and a trio of Belarusian political prisoners - Ales Bialatski, Eduard Lobau and Mykola Statkevich.

Other nominees included jailed Ethiopian journalists Reeyot Alemu and Eskinder Nega and jailed Russian oligarch-turned-reformer Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Amid the pre-Nobel buzz, Russia's authoritarian leader, Vladimir Putin, has also been put forward for the peace prize by his own MPs for stopping US strikes on Syria.

Meanwhile, Yousafzai is due to collect her €50,000 reward in the EU parliament in Strasbourg on 20 November.

Her speech will come one month after Burmese Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, collects her Sakharov prize on 22 October.

Suu Kyi won the Sakharov in 1990, but was under house arrest for most of the past 20 years.

The EU prize is named after Andrei Sakharov, a scientist and dissident in the Soviet Union, who died in 1989.

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