Malala Yousafzai wins Sakharov Prize

Pakistani campaigner for girls’ education Malala Yousafzai is the laureate of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2013, following today’s decision of the Conference of Presidents (EP President and political group leaders). She will be invited to receive the award at a ceremony in Strasbourg on November, 20.

“By awarding the Sakharov Prize to Malala Yousafzai, the European Parliament acknowledges the incredible strength of this young woman. Malala bravely stands for the right of all children to be granted a fair education. This right for girls is far too commonly neglected”, said EP President Martin Schulz, announcing the laureate. “As tomorrow 11 October is the International Day of the Girl Child, I would like to recall that some 250 million young girls around the world cannot freely go to school. Malala’s example reminds us of our duty and responsibility to the right to education for children. This is the best investment for the future”, he added.

The prize is accompanied by an award of €50,000. Nominations must obtain the support of at least 40 MEPs or that of a political group.

Ales Bialatski, Eduard Lobau and Mikola Statkevich (representing all Belarusian political prisoners) were also nominated for the Prize. They have been in jail since a peaceful demonstration took place in Minsk’s Independence Square on 19 December 2010, against the disputed re-election of president Aliaksandr Lukashenka. Ales Bialiatski is president of the “Viasna” Human Rights Centre (4.5 years of imprisonment), Eduard Lobau is a Young Front activist (4 years), and Mikola Statkevich was a presidential candidate in 2010 (6 years).

The EP’s green group nominated Edward Snowden, an American computer expert and former CIA/NSA employee who released classified information about the US mass surveillance of electronic communications. In June 2013 the US government charged him with espionage, theft and illegal use of government property. In July he was given temporary asylum in Russia.

Malala Yousafzai is a 16-year-old girl who fights for the right to women’s education, freedom and self-determination in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, where the Taliban regime has banned girls from attending school. She was 11 years old when she began her fight by writing a blog under a pseudonym. She quickly became a prominent voice against such abuses and Taliban gunmen tried to assassinate her in October 2012. She has since become the symbol of the fight for women’s rights and worldwide access to education.

Last year Ales Bialiatski, was also shortlisted for the 2012 Sakharov Prize but it was awarded to lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and film director Jafar Panahi from Iran.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named in honor of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, has been awarded by the European Parliament every year since 1988 to individuals or organizations that have made an important contribution to the fight for human rights or democracy. Like Andrei Sakharov himself, all the winners of the prize have shown how much courage it takes to defend human rights and freedom of expression.

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