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Malala Yousafzai, winner of the 2013 Sakharov Prize

PEN International is delighted to welcome the announcement that Malala Yousafzai has been awarded the 2013 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

Founded in 1988, the European Parliament’s award, named after Russian Nobel Peace Prize winning physicist Andrei Sakharov, aims to honour “exceptional individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression”.

Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by members of the Taliban on 9 October 2012, as she was returning home from school in the Swat region of Northern Pakistan – an attack which attracted widespread international condemnation. Targeted for her campaigning for girls’ education rights, Malala had reached prominence aged 11 when she started writing a diary for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban. Among other issues her blog detailed how the Taliban shut down girls’ schools in the Swat region.

Since the attack Malala has become a symbol of the fight for women’s rights and worldwide access to education for girls. She continues to act as a vocal defender of these rights.

The Women Writers Committee of PEN International, which released this statement in October 2012, has been active in campaigning to end violence against women. The Committee has also joined Austrian PEN, Kenyan PEN, and other PEN Centres in supporting the Time to Say No Campaign, which aims to address the problems of violence against women and has focused in particular on Malala’s case.

Mariela Baeva, BG MEP 2007-2009, who helped support the candidature of Malala Yousafzai stated that: “I am very happy we could join efforts – PEN International Women Writers Committee and the European Parliament – in launching the candidature of the Pakistani girl for Sakharov Prize 2013. I would like to thank Sir Graham Watson, UK MEP, for his active role in the whole process. We are fighting for the message behind Malala’s struggle – saying “no” to any regime that deprives a young person from the value of education.”

For more information on the PEN International Women Writers Committee please see: http://www.pen-international.org/who-we-are/women-writers/

Among the other candidates nominated for the 2013 Sakharov Prize were:

Ales Bialiatski –
Writer and human rights defender Ales Bialiatski is currently serving a four and a half year sentence in Belarus. He was the ’empty chair’ at the 79th PEN International Congress in Reykjavik, Iceland, in September 2013, at which over 50 PEN Centres signed an open letter to President Lukashenko demanding his release.

Edward Snowden –
A contractor for the US National Security Agency, Edwarded Snowden leaked details of its mass surveillance programmes to the press in May 2013. Mr Snowden has been charged with espionage in the USA and is now living in temporary asylum in Russia.
For a resolution on digital surveillance recently adopted by the Assembly of Delegates of PEN International please see: http://www.pen-international.org/campaigns/how-to-campaign/resolution-on-surveillance-submitted-by-american-pen-and-english-pen/

Reeyot Alemu and Eskinder Nega –
Journalists currently in prison in Ethiopia, Reeyot Alemu and Eskinder Nega are currently main cases of the PEN International Writers in Prison Committee, for more information please see: http://www.pen-international.org/newsitems/ethiopia-eskinder-nega%E2%80%99s-18-year-sentence-upheld-four-other-journalists-remain-imprisoned-under-antiterrorism-law/

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