Accessibility links

Malala Wins Sakharov Prize

  • Rikard Jozwiak

BRUSSELS -- Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani education activist who was the target of an assassination attempt by the Taliban, has been awarded the 2013 Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament.

Martin Schulz, the president of the EU legislature, said on October 10 that the award was in acknowledgement of Malala's "incredible strength" in standing up for the rights of all children to be educated.

"Malala is a young girl and you all know her story," Schultz said. "[She] is a young girl, a young adult, from the violence-filled Swat Valley in Pakistan; who showed incredible courage against an enemy in a male-dominated, violent environment. Who had the courage to say 'I am going to school. I will insist on my right to a [normal] childhood. I am, as a girl, an equal member of this society.'"

EU lawmaker Joseph Daul, the chairman of the European People's Party, called Malala "an icon of courage for all teenagers who dare to pursue their aspirations." Like a candle, he said, "she lights a path out of darkness."

British deputy Graham Watson was one of the parliament members who nominated Malala.

"I nominated Malala Yousafzai because I believe she represents something that so many strive for, which is a girl claiming her right to be educated," Watson told RFE/RL. "We need far more people like Malala standing up and insisting that women have a right to be educated in societies where it is often denied."

WATCH: European Parliament President Martin Schultz announces the award.

The Pakistani Taliban said on October 10 that Malala had done "nothing" to deserve the EU rights prize and vowed to try to kill her again.

A spokesman for the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Shahidullah Shahid, told AFP by telephone that "the enemies of Islam are awarding her because she has left Islam and has become secular."

Malala was shot in the head as she traveled to school in her native Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan in October 2012.

She was flown to Britain for surgery and returned to school in Birmingham in March.

She had written a blog for the BBC that detailed life under Taliban pressure and her views about promoting education for girls.

The 50,000-euro ($65,000) Sakharov Prize is awarded annually by the European Parliament to honor defenders of human rights and freedom of expression.

Past winners include South African antiapartheid hero and former President Nelson Mandela and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The Sakharov prize will be presented on November 20.

Malala has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, which will be announced on October 11.

  • 16x9 Image

    Rikard Jozwiak

    Rikard Jozwiak covers the European Union and NATO for RFE/RL from his base in Brussels.​ Write to him at