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Malala Yousafzai wins EU Sakharov human rights prize

10 October 2013

Malala Yousafzai wins EU Sakharov human rights prize

The European Parliament has awarded its annual Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought to Malala Yousafzai, the education activist from Pakistan who was shot in the head by the Taliban one year and one day ago.

The European Parliament has awarded its annual Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought to Malala Yousafzai, the education activist from Pakistan who was shot in the head by the Taliban one year and one day ago.

Malala was co-nominated for the award by the European Conservatives and Reformists Group.

The prestigious Prize is named after Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov. It was established in December 1988 by the European Parliament as a means to honour individuals or organizations who had dedicated their lives to the defence of human rights and freedoms. Previous winners include Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan.

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani school pupil and education activist from Pakistan’s north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province: In 2009 she wrote a blog for the BBC about her life under Taliban rule and the lack of education for girls. This was followed by a New York Times documentary about her life as the Pakistani military attempted to intervene in the region. She was shot last October on a school bus, seeing her eventually moved to the UK for treatment. She has since become a global figure speaking out in favour of women’s rights and education rights.

ECR Human Rights spokesman Charles Tannock said:

“Malala is an inspirational and incredibly brave young lady who deserves this prize for her resolve and stoicism in the face of danger.

“The EU has sent a powerful signal about our support for women’s rights and education rights for all around the world.

“The Taliban tried to silence Malala but their violence and hatred has only made her stronger. We look forward to giving her a platform in the parliament later this year.”

ECR Group Chairman Martin Callanan supported Malala in the European Parliament’s meeting of Group leaders (The Conference of Presidents) where today’s decision was made. He said:

“Malala Yousafzai is a deserving winner of this prize. We are sending a message that violence and hatred will never prevail. A year after she was attacked her cause has won her a prestigious EU prize and, we hope, the Nobel Peace Prize: an incredible achievement for anyone, but especially for someone still in their teens.”

The other shortlisted nominees for the award were Belarusian dissidents and prisoners Ales Bialatski, Eduard Lobau and Mykola Statkevich, and NSA fugitive Edward Snowden. Speaking of the other finalists, Mr Callanan said:

“I was reassured to see three Belarusian dissidents in the shortlist for this prize. The fact that they have not won this year should never be seen as a hall pass for Lukashenko. We will continue to speak out vociferously against the appalling human rights abuses occurring in Belarus.

“For the Greens and Communists to nominate Edward Snowden is an insult to the many brave and worthy people who have received this prize in the past. Edward Snowden is a fugitive, not a freedom fighter. The Greens and Communists should be ashamed of their actions, which have demeaned the value of this prize.”

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