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Extremism

Activists want Malala to win Nobel Peace Prize

Pakistani and international rights activists have launched a campaign to get Malala Yousufzai, a young Pakistani activist who was shot by the Taliban, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. But does she really deserve it?

The 15-year-old Malala Yousufzai is recuperating at a hospital in the English city of Birmingham. Yousufzai - a blogger and activist - was shot by armed men last month along with three other girls in the restive northwestern Pakistani Swat Valley. Taliban militants claimed responsibility for the attack and said in a statement that Yousufzai had been attacked because she was promoting "secularism" in Swat.

Yousufzai had been campaigning for girls' right to education in Swat and was a vocal critic of the Taliban. She won international acclaim for writing about Islamist atrocities in Swat in a BBC Urdu service blog. Last year, she was awarded Pakistan's first National Peace Award. She was also nominated for the KidsRights Foundation's International Children's Peace Prize.

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown - also the United Nations’ special envoy for global education - is on a three-day visit to Pakistan to attend a program for "Malala Day" on Saturday, November 10. The UN has created the November 10 holiday to honor Yousufzai.

Signature campaign

On Friday, tens of thousands of people in the UK called on Prime Minister David Cameron to nominate Yousufzai for the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for standing up against the Taliban and promoting girls' education in Pakistan.

The Nobel Committee's rules only allow prominent figures such government officials and members of national parliaments to make nominations.

Pakistani children pray for the recovery Yousufzai
(Photo:Shakil Adil/AP/dapd)

Doctors say that Yousufzai's condition is improving

Yousufzai has received international praise for standing up to the Taliban. Activists in Pakistan are also campaigning to get Yousufzai nominated for the award.

Shahida Choudhary, a Pakistani-British campaigner, is one of the many who urged British PM Cameron and other officials of the British government on Friday to nominate Yousufzai for the prize. "Malala doesn't just represent one young woman, she speaks out for all those who are denied an education purely on the basis of their gender," Choudhary said in a statement.

The campaigners say that more than 60,000 people have signed a petition worldwide to lobby for Yousufzai's nomination.

'Undeserving'

But many in Pakistan believe that the local and international media is unnecessarily creating hype around Yousufzai. Right-wing parties in Pakistan say that the Yousufzai incident is a conspiracy to "defame Islam and Pakistan." They claim that the campaign to nominate Yousufzai for the peace prize is proof that there is an "international lobby" behind the whole issue.

"I don't think that Malala deserves to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. I think there are more deserving people in Pakistan who should be nominated for the award," Karachi-based Shiite activist Syed Ali Mujtaba Zaidi told DW. "Just because you (Malala) got shot by the Taliban does not make you worthy of the nomination or the award."

Pakistani Taliban patrol in their stronghold of Shawal in the Pakistani tribal region of South Waziristan
(Photo: Ishtiaq Mahsud, File/AP/dapd)

Taliban militants control many parts of Pakistan's tribal northwest

Zaidi was of the view that there were thousands of Pakistanis who had suffered at the hands of the Taliban and the media never highlighted their misery and struggle.

Social media in Pakistan is full of comments and pictures claiming that the Yousufzai incident was a fabricated "conspiracy." Some Internet users have posted photoshopped pictures of Yousufzai and her father, who were shown with US government officials at a meeting. The pictures of the dead bodies of young girls, allegedly killed in US drone strikes, were posted with captions such as: "Do they not deserve our sympathy?" or "Are the victims of US drone strikes not humans?"

Symbol of resistance

There are also many people in Pakistan for whom Yousufzai's name has become synonymous with the fight against extremism and the Taliban. Pakistani civil society and rights activists have condemned the girl's shooting unequivocally and have organized several country-wide demonstrations in support of Yousufzai and the education of girls.

"Malala is no more simply the name of an individual; her name symbolizes the movement for girls' education in Pakistan," Mahnaz Rahman, a veteran rights activist and Resident Director of the women's rights organization, Aurat Foundation, told DW.

Pakistani demonstrators chant slogans during a protest against the assassination attempt by the Taliban on child activist Malala Yousafzai in Islamabad
(Photo: AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)

Rights groups and liberal political parties have condemned the attack on Yousufzai

Rahman said that international recognition for Yousufzai was important because it would strengthen the progressive forces in Pakistan. She said that Yousufzai deserved the Nobel Peace Prize more than many other people who had won it in the past.

Ghazala Naqvi, a Karachi-based writer, told DW she believed that although national and international lobbies played a big role in nominations for international awards, Yousufzai's nomination would project the soft and liberal image of Pakistan to the rest of the world.

DW.DE