Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai has won the 2013 European Parliament Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, human rights and democracy.
Malala Yousafzai is a young Pakistani school girl who took to a blog to protest against the Pakistani Taliban’s closure of girls schools in her region of the Swat valley and in October 2012 was, once her school had re-opened, shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen while returning home on a school bus.
Since the attempt on her life, and medical treatment in the UK, she has captured the attention of the world in her fight for access to education for young girls.
Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson, who was the first to put Malala Yousafzai forward as a nominee and led the campaign for her nomination and award in the European Parliament, said:
“This prize is not just for Malala but for the millions of other girls and boys worldwide, Muslim and non-Muslim, who like her have been denied their universal right to education. She now personifies the fight for that right with her ‘weapons of books and pens’.
“In their attempt to silence her voice, her oppressors have amplified it. The Taliban’s renewed threats of violence against her go to show yet again just how a single 16 year old girl has managed to put a spotlight on and completely humiliate them.
“Hers is a story of David and Goliath, and by awarding Malala the 25th Sakharov prize we are putting the European Parliament’s full weight behind the fight for education for all – which is after all the most powerful tool we have for world development.”
Liberal Democrat MEP for the West Midlands Phil Bennion commented:
“Malala has received this award not only for the incredible work she did before she was brutally attacked, but for the tremendous courage she has shown since in continuing to fight girls’ right to education around the world.
“The people of Birmingham can be proud that she has become our city’s adopted daughter.”
Notes to Editors
For further background on Malala Yousafzai see here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24379018
The Sakharov prize will be officially awarded at an awards ceremony in Strasbourg on 20 November.
Past winners of the European Parliament Sakharov prize include Nelson Mandela (1988), Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (1992), China’s Hu Jia (2008) and the activists of the Arab Spring (2011. The Liberal Democrat (ALDE) group in the European Parliament nominated Malala Yousafzai for the Sakharov Prize 2013.