BRUSSELS (AP) — European lawmakers awarded their top human rights prize Thursday to 16-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who last year survived a Taliban assassination attempt because of her outspoken support for girls’ education.
US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden and a group of imprisoned Belarus dissidents were also in the running for the 50,000-euro ($65,000) Sakharov Award.
Previous winners include Nobel Peace Prize laureates Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela. The award came one day ahead of the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize, for which Malala also is a contender.
“The European Parliament acknowledges the incredible strength of this young woman,” said Martin Schulz, the president of the EU legislature. “Malala bravely stands for the right of all children to be granted a fair education. This right for girls is far too commonly neglected.”
Europe’s three major political groups had nominated the schoolgirl in a show of united support for her cause.
The Taliban targeted Malala in the October 2012 shooting because of her outspoken objection to the group’s interpretation of Islam that keeps women at home and bars girls from school. Militants still threaten to kill her if she returns home.
After Malala was shot in the face, she was taken for special treatment to a hospital in Birmingham, England. She gradually regained her sight and her voice and was reunited with her parents.
Her recognition has stirred anti-Western sentiments in Pakistan, where a brutal insurgency has killed thousands of civilians and more than 4,000 soldiers.
Yousafzai will be in New York City Thursday to speak about her experiences and her memoir.
Malala Yousafzai and her father, a human rights activist who founded an all-girls school, will be interviewed by CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan on Thursday night.
She chronicles the October attack by Taliban gunmen and its aftermath in her book, “I Am Malala.”
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.