Malala Yousafzai, the teenager shot by the Taliban, is on the short list of potential winners of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, set to be announced on Friday.
According to Kristian Harpviken at the Peace Research Institute and historian Asle Sveen, two Norwegian experts on the prize, the Pakistan schoolgirl tops their shortlist of nominees to be named the winner on Friday. Mr. Harpviken believes she deserves the award for being a symbol of girls' rights to education and security and her fight against extremism and oppression.
Malala has been speaking out against the Taliban’s efforts to ban education for girls in the Swat Valley since 2008 at the age of only 11. She had been blogging for BBC Urdu Services and participating in the Institute for War and Peace Reporting’s Open Minds Project until near-fatally shot in the head by the Taliban two years ago tomorrow.
Should she win, Malala would set a historical precedent as the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize after Yemeni journalist Tawakkol Karman, who was age 32 when she shared the prize in 2011 with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia, and Leymah Gbowee, Liberian peace activist. Malala would also be the third female Muslim laureate ever selected by the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
“There is no age limit for receiving a Peace Prize, but I am one of those who have said it could be a problem,” says Mr. Sveen, who has Malala as his second pick after Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege. “But she has exposed herself so strongly regardless, so it’s not so improbable.”
The teenage nominee has recently gained recognition by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in 2012, delivered a speech to the UN on her 16th birthday in July, and published her memoir “I am Malala” today. She is slated to attend a reception by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace next week – possibly as a Peace Prize winner.
“A Nobel Peace Prize for Malala will not just honor her courage and resolve, but also send a clear message to the Taliban terrorists that the world is watching and will support those who stand up for gender equality and universal human rights that includes the right of education for girls,” said Change.org in its petition to the Norwegian Nobel Committee for nomination, which has received support from several countries.
Sveen has higher hopes that Dr. Mukwege will win, as many feel that the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has not gotten enough attention. After decades of civil war, thousands of women have been brutally raped. Mukwege has defied death threats and treated victims of sexual violence at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, which he founded in 1999.
Both Malala and Mukwege are among a record 259 valid nominations this year, which included 50 organizations. Other top candidates this year, according to Harpviken and Sveen, include Russian human rights activists Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Svetlana Gannushkina, and Lilya Shibanova.
Among the long shots for this year’s award are imprisoned US citizen and Wikileaks source Bradley Manning and National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden – the latter of whom was nominated after the February deadline – as they might be considered provocative choices for the US, says Sveen.