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جمعرات، 15 نومبر، 2012

Nobel for Malala

Malala is undoubtedly justified the recognition she has receiver so far,because of her immense contribution to and tenacious fight for girls education in Pakistan.But Nobel Peace Prize- if the world does agree that she has done enough toreceive it - would have been more justified back in 2009,when she would have received it solely for having spoken up about life under the Kharji Taliban rule. When it would have been more about her being a rights activist than about her being the rights activist who got shot.

Malala Yousafzai has taken the world over by storm. She is being discussed by every other person on Facebook, written about by famous journalists and activists, being provided excellent healthcare and has suddenly woken up to a world exploding in support for her against members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who shot her on October 9. She currently has more than 80,000 followers on one of her Facebook profiles, and around 15,000 on another. Such support from the world – material, ideological, mental – is only justified. It restores our faith in humanity and reminds us to keep fighting for what it is right and just, no matter who the enemy is.

To add to it all, a petition has been going around since October 20, asking for the world to nominate Malala for the Nobel Peace Prize. It has since received more than 20,000 signatures. Malala, for what she stood up against, has already received the National Youth Peace Prize in December 2011, and was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in October 2011. Many would consider her nomination for, and a possible victory of, the Nobel Peace Prize to be equally justified. What worries me, however, is the timing at which this petition sprung up.

Noble gesture,wrong perspective:

According to reports, she began writing in 2009 for the BBC, about the stress she suffered under the Taliban oppression. During the military operations, her school saw fewer numbers of girls attending each day until eventually, it shut down. The following summer, a New York Times documentary was released which explored deep into similar stories of her life under the Taliban oppression. She soon became a public figure, a beacon of hope for the girls in Swat Valley, where she grew up. This is 2009.

Between 2009, when her blog under the BBC was released, and 2012, she had been nominated by Desmond Tutu for the International Children’s Peace Prize in October 2011, had won Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize in December 2011, and numerous other awards and honors.

Last month, Malala was shot in an assassination attempt by the Taliban who, after placing numerous death threats against her, thought they were ‘forced to act’ since she refused to step down from her mission. This is 2012.

Around two weeks after she was shot, the petition went viral. The petition, which was initiated by Tarek Fatah from Canada, reads:
A Nobel Peace Prize for Malala will send a clear message 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.

And it is true. A peace prize for Malala will prove to the TTP that the world stands against them, and that we all are with Malala – even though most of us lack the courage to speak up with unfaltering bravery as she did. But at this point, the question staring at us in the face is: why did this have to wait till she was shot in the head and almost died? 

It is understandable if, back in 2009, her contribution of a blog and a documentary was not deemed enough for a peace prize which has been awarded to figures such as Aung Suu Kyi, who has been involved in peacekeeping efforts for almost two decades. Despite the criticisms the Norwegian Nobel Committee has received recently, which I explore later in the article, the prize undeniably bears a lot of prestige, acknowledging decades-worth of hard work by recipients such as Suu Kyi and Muhammad Yunus. Many might, therefore, contest the idea of putting Malala on the same platform as them. Malala’s contribution of the blog and documentary, albeit very powerful, may sit uncomfortably amidst the other decades-long contributions. There have also been countless debates on the issue of Malala becoming so famous immediately after her shooting - journalists, analysts have since written about many of the children killed by US drone attacks, asking if the world knew any of their names. And these questions and concerns are only valid at a time when the world’s pronounced support for Malala, much perpetuated by the Western media, has deafened the noise of drones blasting across Pakistan, killing children Malala’s age.

Many proponents of the nomination, on the other hand, may argue that Malala is the 14-year-old activist who took a bullet. But such argument is what my concerns stem from – a ‘bullet’ should not be the reason, or the deciding factor for a peace prize. For many, Malala became known after her shooting – the difference between her shooting and that of the children facing drone attacks being that her attacker is the Taliban. Regardless of the subjects involved in the matter, doesn’t this, to some extent, generate the idea that the recognition of her heroic attempts was contingent upon her exposure to, and survival from, the violent attack? A gunshot. Malala was a hero, in the truest sense of the word, from the moment she started to write her blog about life under the Taliban. But unfortunately, the assassination attempt on her has made her more famous than her blog had. And by calling for this nomination quite immediately after she was shot, although there were a good couple of years beforehand to do so, the petition sends a wrong message. And that is the kind of practice, the kind of culture we cannot allow. We cannot tell our children that they must get shot in order to be heard. That they must get shot in order to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

At the same time, we have to acknowledge that yesterday it was Malala, and today it is Hinna Khan who has received similar threats by the Taliban for supporting her parents’ cause which promotes development and literacy programmes for women. Tomorrow, it will be someone else, and yet another child the day after. Are we going to respond to each of them through such symbolic gestures? The gesture is a noble one but it will do very little to address the core issue here: the Taliban. The Taliban is only celebrating this popularity because at the end of the day, the media sensation is only delivering the Taliban’s message to the world. We must address the situation with the understanding that the difference between the Taliban and the world does not lie in the former’s action of killing a 14-year-old and the latter’s stance against it – the difference is ideological. It is a battle between secularism and fanaticism. Between blind faith and reason. Between power and children. And at this point, the world needs to see a more material reaction to such heinous acts than a symbolic one. 

Controversies about the
Norwegian Nobel Committee

At the same time, the hypocrisy of the Norwegian Nobel Committee cannot go ignored. Just around the same time as Malala’s shooting, the European Union (EU) won the Nobel Peace Prize for this year, for the ‘EU’s decades-long historical role in promoting reconciliation and peace.’ However, Alfred Nobel’s will states that a person is entitled to the prize after they ‘have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.’ Naturally, there have been various outraged responses to the EU winning the peace prize. Many argue, on a very basic level, that the EU is not ‘a person’ and hence does not qualify for the prize.
Digging deeper, an article, titled The Noble Peace Prize for Wars, published on Global Research, point out some of the EU members’ involvement in the Yugoslavian war, the EU’s ignorance of the war, and some other members’ action of sending troops to Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya over the years, claiming the EU to be undeserving of a peace prize. Similar to the controversy observed in the EU winning of the peace prize, Barack Obama’s ‘victory’ of the prize back on October 9 (notice the irony of dates here) 2009 sparked similar criticisms. A New York Times article states that the committee, based in Norway, stressed that it made its decision ‘based on Mr. Obama’s actual efforts toward nuclear disarmament as well as American engagement with the world relying more on diplomacy and dialogue.’
Nobel’s will does not, however, suggest the prize be given to those who made ‘efforts’ but rather to those who will have done something. Concrete. The Committee’s decision to award the EU this year, and to Obama back in 2009 within a few months of his presidency for reasons unclear then, and unclear till date to many, suggest an almost desperate need for the Committee to be associated with whatever appears to bear a good, or big, name, irrespective of its widely criticised actions.

While these examples doubt the validity of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, let us come back to Malala and her possible nomination for the prize. The Nobel Peace Prize usually (with the exception of some cases as mentioned above) brings to light the heroes of our world – who are often unheard of before they receive the prize. But Malala, without having received the Nobel Peace Prize, is known enough to everyone the world over. And today, an acknowledgment of Malala by the Norwegian Nobel Committee will add little to her already huge fan base and popularity among activists across the globe. It may, in fact, benefit the Norwegian Nobel Committee to be somehow associated with her.

Malala is undoubtedly justified the recognition she has receiver so far, because of her immense contribution to and tenacious fight for girls’ education in Pakistan. But a Nobel Peace Prize - if the world does agree that she has done enough to receive it - would have been more justified back in 2009, when she would have received it solely for having spoken up about life under the Taliban rule. When it would have been more about her being a rights activist than about her being the rights activist who got shot.

By Syeda Samira Sadeque

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