Malala Yousafzai

Taliban threat after teenage activist Malala Yousafzai wins Sakharov prize

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 October, 2013, 8:54am

Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai, the teenage activist nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, won the EU's prestigious Sakharov human rights prize yesterday, drawing a fresh threat of murder by the Taliban.

To 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 that also included three jailed Belarussian dissidents and US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden "acknowledges the incredible strength of this young woman", Schulz added.

The 16-year-old has become an emblem of the fight against the most radical forms of Islamism. She was shot in the head by the Pakistani Taliban on October 9 last year for speaking out against them and has gone on to become a global ambassador for the right of all children to go to school.

In Pakistan, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) immediately vowed a fresh attempt on her life "even in America or the UK".

"She has done nothing," TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said. "She is getting awards because she is working against Islam."

Malala was taken to Britain for treatment in the wake of last year's attack and now goes to school in the central England city of Birmingham.

Feted by world leaders and celebrities for her courage, she has addressed the UN, this week published an autobiography, and could become the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate today.

In an interview this week with Pakistani radio station City89 FM, she said she had not yet earned that accolade.

"There are many people who deserve the Nobel Peace Prize and I think that I still need to work a lot," she said.

There was no immediate response to winning the €50,000 (HK$525,000) Sakharov prize from Malala, who is currently in New York. It will be handed to her at a ceremony in Strasbourg on November 20. Past winners include South African anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela and former UN secretary general Kofi Annan.

Malala first rose to prominence with a blog for the BBC Urdu service chronicling the difficulties of life under the rule of the Taliban, who controlled Swat valley from 2007 until they were kicked out by the army in 2009.

In the deeply conservative northwest region of Pakistan, women are often expected to stay at home to cook and rear children and only half of girls girls go to school, although this is up from 34 per cent in 2011.