Malala wins Sakharov Prize

According to the BBC, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban (a year ago yesterday) for the horrific crime of trying to go to school, has just been awarded the prestigious Sakharov Prize by the EU.  That’s not only for her courage, of course, but for her blogging for the BBC before she was shot, and her subsequent activism, trying to ensure that everyone, regardless of whether they have a Y chromosome, can get schooling.

The Sakharov Prize for free speech is awarded by the European Parliament annually in memory of Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov.

. . . The 50,000 euro ($65,000) prize is considered Europe’s top human rights award.

. . .”Today, we decided to let the world know that our hope for a better future stands in young people like Malala Yousafzai,” said the head of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP), Joseph Daul.

Malala received a standing ovation in July this year for an address to the United Nations General Assembly, in which she vowed she would never be silenced.

MEPs in Strasbourg said Malala was “incredibly brave” to continue promoting the rights of children. Her new home is in Birmingham, in the UK.

She joins a distinguished list of winners of the Sakharov Prize which includes South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, also known as Myanmar. The award will be officially presented at a ceremony in Strasbourg in November.

Time Magazine says that the Nobel Peace Prize, to be this Friday, is “hers to lose”, and although that may be a bit of a stretch, it’s not completely out of the question. That Prize would send a strong message to the Taliban, to repressive Islam, and to the world that education is an right independent of gender.

Sadly, she’s not nearly as lionized in Pakistan as elsewhere.  The Taliban has threatened to attack her again, and conspiracy theories abound in Pakistan that she was a CIA agent and, bizarrely, shot by CIA agents and not the Taliban. The Pakistani government has pointedly ignored her honors (although local clerics did issue a fatwa against the gunmen). In another article, Time reports the pushback in Malala’s homeland.

Let we forget what she went through, have a look at part of the Wikipedia article describing her shooting:

As Yousafzai became more recognized, the dangers facing her became more acute. Death threats against her were published in newspapers and slipped under her door. On Facebook, where she was an active user, she began to receive threats and fake profiles were created under her name. When none of this worked, a Taliban spokesman says they were “forced” to act. In a meeting held in the summer of 2012, Taliban leaders unanimously agreed to kill her.

IOn 9 October 2012, a Taliban gunman shot Yousafzai as she rode home on a bus after taking an exam in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. The masked gunman shouted “Which one of you is Malala? Speak up, otherwise I will shoot you all”, and, on her being identified, shot at her. She was hit with one bullet, which went through her head, neck, and ended in her shoulder. Two other girls were also wounded in the shooting: Kainat Riaz and Shazia Ramzan, both of whom were stable enough to speak to reporters and provide details of the attack.

After the shooting, Yousafzai was airlifted to a military hospital in Peshawar, where doctors were forced to begin operating after swelling developed in the left portion of her brain, which had been damaged by the bullet when it passed through her head. After a three-hour operation, doctors successfully removed the bullet, which had lodged in her shoulder near her spinal cord. The day following the attack, doctors performed a decompressive craniectomy, in which part of the skull is removed to allow room for the brain to swell.

On 11 October 2012, a panel of Pakistani and British doctors decided to move Yousafzai to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology in Rawalpindi. Mumtaz Khan, a doctor, said that she had a 70% chance of survival.  Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that Yousafzai would be shifted to Germany, where she could receive the best medical treatment, as soon as she was stable enough to travel. A team of doctors would travel with her, and the government would bear the expenditures of her treatment.  Doctors reduced Yousafzai’s sedation on 13 October, and she moved all four limbs. 

Offers to treat Yousafzai came from around the world, with several from the United States. One offer came from former US Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who had been through similar treatment after she was shot in the head in 2011. Another offer came from the American military hospital atLandstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and another from US Senator John Kerry, who had longstanding political ties to Pakistan. On 15 October, Yousafzai traveled to the United Kingdom for further treatment, approved by both her doctors and family. Her plane landed in Dubai to refuel and then continued to Birmingham, where she was treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, one of the specialties of this hospital being the treatment of military personnel injured in conflict.

Yousafzai had come out of her coma by 17 October, was responding well to treatment, and was said to have a good chance of fully recovering without any brain damage. Later updates on 20 and 21 October stated that she was stable, but was still battling an infection. By 8 November, she was photographed sitting up in bed.

On 3 January 2013, Yousafzai was released from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham to continue her rehabilitation at her family’s temporary home in the West Midlands. She had a five-hour operation on 2 February to reconstruct her skull and restore her hearing, and was reported in stable condition at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.

All that suffering because she just wanted an education.  This comes out of Islam, of course, and I hope no apologists can pin this on colonialism or simply disaffected and poverty-stricken Pakistanis.

h/t: Malgorzata


  1. freethinkinfranklin
    Posted October 10, 2013 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    I AM Malala !!!(less the religous hook)
    Nobel Peace prize next for her !!
    I AM Malala !!!

  2. Don Quijote
    Posted October 10, 2013 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said:

    “We targeted Malala Yousafzai because she attacked Islam and make a jokes on Islam, if we found her again then we would definitely try to kill her and we will feel proud on her death. We didn’t target her for spreading education in her área, we targeted her for making jokes of Islam and that was enough reason for attacking her.”

    I have never heard Malala make any joke about Islam but I have heard her giving thanks to Allah for her survival. Methinks Shahid is a liar.

    • freethinkinfranklin
      Posted October 10, 2013 at 5:00 am | Permalink

      HEY Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid islam IS a joke, and so are you, now come get me and leave little school girls alone big man…
      I AM Malala !

      • Don Quijote
        Posted October 10, 2013 at 5:59 am | Permalink

        Had you read my comment and understood it, you will notice that it was in support of Malala.

        I have no reason to “come and get” you. You appear foolish enough to be a danger to yourself.

        • freethinkinfranklin
          Posted October 10, 2013 at 7:09 am | Permalink

          Had YOU read and understood my comment you would understand i was talking to Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid !!! so tell me again whos the fool?? jeez some peoples kids….

          • Don Quijote
            Posted October 10, 2013 at 8:32 am | Permalink

            Quote: “HEY Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid IS a joke, and so are you, now come and get me and leave little school girls alone big man.”

            Notice the “and so are you” part?

            • Richard Olson
              Posted October 10, 2013 at 8:41 am | Permalink

              Don, come on. When you retyped freethinkin’s sentence, you omitted the word ‘Islam’ which immediately precedes the capitalized ‘IS’.

              Franklin clearly states it is Islam and spokesman Shahid which are jokes. He doesn’t comment about Don Q one way or another.

              • freethinkinfranklin
                Posted October 10, 2013 at 9:02 am | Permalink

                thank you Richard Olson !! i couldn’t believe he (Don Quijote) intentionally misrepresented what i said just to push his untrue point…. i’m thinking he might be a relation of Michelle Bachmanns….
                perhaps he should stick to jousting with windmills, they are intellectually equivalent.

              • Don Quijote
                Posted October 10, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

                To freethinkinfranklin: Richard Olson is right. For some reason I completely missed the word “Islam” when I read and retyped your comment. So yes, I am the fool. I apologize unreservedly.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted October 10, 2013 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

                Actually Don I misread Franklin’s rather breathless comment too, first time through. So don’t feel too bad…

          • JBlilie
            Posted October 10, 2013 at 8:46 am | Permalink

            The dangers of punctuation …

  3. Posted October 10, 2013 at 5:00 am | Permalink

    There is one thing that mystifies me: in an interview (in German only:, she is asked about Taliban death threads she received after her UN speech. Her reply (in my own translation): “God protected me once, an I am certain, He will protect me again!”. Some protection God is.

    • Sines
      Posted October 10, 2013 at 5:30 am | Permalink

      Not to knock Malala, for despite her faith, she still wins out as a person superior to me, but this reminds me of the old discussion about football teams praying to god for victory.

      The Taliban prays to Allah to kill this ‘blasphemer’, and Malala prays to Allah for protection.

      Far be it for Allah to show up and express his own opinions directly and clearly on this matter though.

  4. Posted October 10, 2013 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    I have to ask: Does Malala deserve any praise for her courageous choice to continue her struggle? Do the Taliban leaders deserve any blame for their choice to order her murder? What about the Talib who shot her after having said, “Speak up; otherwise I will shoot you all” to a bunch of children? Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner?

    You may say that praise and blame are never deserved, that their only legitimate functions are to encourage good conduct and deter bad conduct. But they perform those functions only because, in general, we don’t believe that about them.

    • eric
      Posted October 10, 2013 at 6:19 am | Permalink

      Yes, Yes, and Yes.
      That was easy.

      • Posted October 10, 2013 at 6:38 am | Permalink

        So I take it you mean “Yes, yes, yes, and no.” I think those answers put you at odds with the website owner, just BTW. At the very least, he doesn’t agree with you that your answers are obviously right!

        • Posted October 10, 2013 at 6:42 am | Permalink

          This all depends, of course, on whether by “deserved” you mean “made a free choice that is admirable/reprehensible”. If that’s the case, then no praise or blame is deserved. But if by “deserved” you mean “society should praise/blame someone for what they did”, then I agree.

          Surely you’re not suggesting that the Taliban, or Malala, had libertarian free will to make their decisions, and that those decisions were not predetermined by their environments and their genes, but by some immaterial entity ordering things around in their heads?

          • Posted October 10, 2013 at 6:47 am | Permalink

            Surely you’re not suggesting that the Taliban, or Malala, had libertarian free will to make their decisions, and that those decisions were not predetermined by their environments and their genes, but by some immaterial entity ordering things around in their heads?

            Indeed, I am not. But libertarian free will isn’t required in order for someone to choose freely and isn’t required in order for someone to deserve praise or blame. (We needn’t rehearse here the reasons why not. They’re abundantly available on the web.)

            • Posted October 10, 2013 at 6:50 am | Permalink

              Yeah, and the arguments are wrong, as I’ve asserted repeatedly. “Choosing freely” means you really could have chosen something else. At least it means that to everyone in the world except some philosophers.


              • Posted October 10, 2013 at 6:56 am | Permalink

                At least it means that to everyone in the world except some philosophers.

                For the record: Not just some philosophers but a majority of philosophers, including a majority of those who specialize in the philosophy of action. As for non-philosophers, you surely realize that your claim is an empirical one, and the empirical evidence by no means clearly favors it.

              • Notagod
                Posted October 10, 2013 at 7:54 am | Permalink

                Have those “majority of philosophers” shown any evidence for or even proposed a mechanism for making a free choice that wasn’t a result of genetic makeup and prior accumulated environmental factors? That is, if all environmental factors and all genetic factors were exactly the same, how would it occur that a different choice could be made?

              • BillyJoe
                Posted October 11, 2013 at 4:23 am | Permalink

                “That is, if all environmental factors and all genetic factors were exactly the same, how would it occur that a different choice could be made?”

                Only by a flip of a coin…
                …and that’s hardly freewill.
                Hence freewill is an incoherent concept .

  5. Posted October 10, 2013 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    But Reza Aslan says,”IGBOK.”

    You see, the Taliban doesn’t undervalue education for women, they just think that picking up any book other than the Koran should be a real spiritual struggle.

  6. Jolo
    Posted October 10, 2013 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    A Nobel prize for Malala will only convince the Taliban that they were correct in trying to kill her. Her continuing to live is an affront to them.

    • eric
      Posted October 10, 2013 at 6:24 am | Permalink

      I agree. The taliban are seeking to make women’s outcomes from speaking up/getting an education negative. The more positive we make this outcome, the more necessary they are going to see some type of retaliation. Maybe not direct, but indirect.

      But this should not stop us from rewarding her as deserved. What it should do is remind us that we have to follow up such rewards with strong support for other women and other outspoken taliban critics.

      • Tamar
        Posted October 10, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

        That. Exactly.

  7. still learning
    Posted October 10, 2013 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Does Malala have a security team and bodyguards? The more publicity she receives, the higher the risk of another assassination attempt. She and her message are too priceless to be silenced.

  8. Posted October 10, 2013 at 8:48 am | Permalink


    That is, if all environmental factors and all genetic factors were exactly the same, how would it occur that a different choice could be made?

    But that’s precisely the assumption in dispute: that the agent chose freely (i.e., responsibly) only if he/she could have chosen something else. Compatibilists don’t in general grant that assumption. They say that our concept of free will derives from our concept of responsible choice, and our concept of responsible choice doesn’t require the ability to have chosen otherwise. (It doesn’t in criminal law, for example, which doesn’t care whether determinism is true.)

    About Jerry’s claim that most people are incompatibilists: It’s crucial to remember that compatibilism says that free choice is compatible with determinism. It doesn’t say that free choice is compatible with what most people think is determinism. Determinism is a technical concept, not a folk concept, so the folk aren’t automatically experts on what it means. It’s possible (I think very likely) that people frequently confuse determinism with other concepts, such as manipulation or coercion. Given the human tendency to see agency in things that aren’t agents (such as plate tectonics), such a confusion isn’t surprising, but it’s still a confusion.

    • Notagod
      Posted October 11, 2013 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

      What I am asking for though is a mechanism that would result in a choice that isn’t determined by environment and genetics. Whatever action is taken necessarily must be a result of the state of the brain when the decision is made. Anything compatible with a freely made choice must have a mechanism that would circumvent the genetic and accumulated environmental state of the brain. Otherwise, it isn’t a freely made choice in any meaningful sense. What is the mechanism?

      Although different people’s thoughts on the matter and different terminology that categorizes those thought may be in a certain way interesting, it doesn’t matter if they are unable to either prove their assumptions or at least point to the mechanism they propose could result in a free choice.

      • Posted October 12, 2013 at 5:25 am | Permalink

        Anything compatible with a freely made choice must have a mechanism that would circumvent the genetic and accumulated environmental state of the brain. Otherwise, it isn’t a freely made choice in any meaningful sense.

        Thank your for stating your position so clearly. Please understand that the statement of yours I just quoted is:

        1. far from obviously true;
        2. rejected by a documented majority of philosophers, including a majority of those who spend their professional lives thinking about the nature of free choice;
        3. explicitly rejected by the criminal law, including by appeals courts that have ruled on the issue;
        4. not (or not clearly) accepted by most people, according to what recent surveys have been able to find;
        5. most importantly, a strange way to define free choice: why would free choice be worth having if it were just a loose cannon? Suppose I deliberate about whether to praise or denounce Malala, and I discover that the reasons entirely favor praising her. I want the results of my deliberation to determine my choice, rather than risk that I might end up denouncing her despite there being every reason to praise her.

        For an excellent introduction to the controversy, I recommend Four Views on Free Will, by Fischer, Kane, Pereboom, and Vargas (Blackwell, 2007).

        • Posted October 12, 2013 at 5:35 am | Permalink

          Frankly, I think that the “majority of philosophers” are just redefining free will so it becomes compatible with determinism, as sort of an exercise in rationalization. In fact Dan Dennett has explicitly said that it’s dangerous for people to know that their actions are determined (which most of us, with the exception of you [point 1] agree on), so such an exercise is construed as being good for society. Don’t forget that most philosophers agree on determinism as well. Compatibilism then becomes a sort of philosophical theology: you redefine terms so that society supposedly isn’t injured by the truth.

          And criminal law does take into account determinism, for it gives a break to criminals whose choices are supposedly determined by brain disease, insanity, and the like. Well, all criminals have a “brain disease” in the sense that their brains could not let them do otherwise.

          The supposed data on people accepting free will is controversial as far as I know it, insofar as they conceive of compatibilist free will.

          Frankly, I think it would be a lot better, as I’ve said before, for philosophers to spend their time telling us why our actions are deterministic rather than confecting new ways to show that we have free will despite determinism. The notion of determinism is far, far more important than such arcane philosophical lucubrations, as it has real and important implications on our judicial system, as well as how we construe praise, blame, and “moral responsibility” (an idea that makes no sense in light of determinism).

          I see little sense in philosophers’ efforts to forge notions of compatibilism. Talking about determinism, and showing people that their actions are indeed determined by their environments and genes, is infinitely more important than compatibilist armchair philosophy. The point is to change the world, not confect some notions that make people feel better about themselves.

          But we’ve had our say, so let’s end this discusssion here, as it’s really off topic.

          • Posted October 12, 2013 at 6:27 am | Permalink

            OK. I’ll desist. But can we at least agree that “Frankly, I think that P” isn’t a good argument for P? And can we agree that compatibilism isn’t a new confection designed to soften bad news from contemporary science? It’s been around for centuries.

  9. JBlilie
    Posted October 10, 2013 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    She’s one of my heros. You go girl. I hope she wins.

  10. Posted October 10, 2013 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    In a strange way the shooting of Malala by the Taliban is owed to the West ! It is an intriguing piece of social history, easily overlooked . It seems that sometime, perhaps in the late Middle Ages there were changes in society. Previously women of any age were regarded as children, incapable of adult thought and action, – thought to be the domain of men. Journals and essays through centuries played upon the supposed frailties and lack of intellectual rigour to be found in women. You can see in, for example, Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ where the author hopes that Cordelia will make the crossover from frailty to a masculine kind of strength; and in Dickens’ ‘Bleak House’ where Esther, the holder of the keys of the house, almost reaches adulthood.

    Older folk may remember the very tail-end of that attitude towards women which still could be seen in the nineteen fifties, where, for example, women teachers were given a rough time in high-school. (To my shame I may have been one of those who played-up to women teachers, and refused to accept their authority) Those who travel in the world of Islam, in Africa or much of Asia can recognise the condescending attitude towards mothers and sisters as in need of protection.

    The West moved along. Perhaps one of the greatest social changes in the past half millennium was the move to where a man may talk with a woman and conceal or forget that she is also an arousing target of his deeper sexual feelings. In hindsight, it was an astonishing achievement. It brought huge social and economic benefits. But the transition in male attitude is not yet complete. The barriers to women entering high politics or the boardroom is owing to the failure of some men to see women as non-sexual colleagues. But for those of us who have learned to listen to the very different ways in which women express ideas, and to reflect upon the true subtlety of what intelligent women are saying, it is evident that women are the equal of better than men, -in broadcasting, health, politics and much of the commercial world. Women are not misled by testosterone-fuelled aggressive decision-making!

    And along come Muslim farm-boys who were brought-up with mums who had the status and timidity of children, and they see that women should not be ‘endangered’ by the horseplay of public and political life. I feel we do a disservice to the emancipation of women in Islam if we fail to recognise the motives of bearded men with flat hats and guns. They feel that they are trying to save women!

    A little dialogue and an exchange of viewpoints in the spirit of conflict resolution is what is called-for, not criticising the world of Islam and calling them ‘backward’
    This is from my book ‘Origins of Belief and Behaviour’ which explains everything.
    And where is Marshal Rosenberg these days; one of the pioneers of conflict resolution? Anybody know of him?

  11. Posted October 10, 2013 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Imagine what the shooter was thinking. “I did this terrible act for Alah. I know it is a horrendous thing to do to a little girl but a religious person claimed Alah wanted me to do it and I would be rewarded with everlasting sex with virgins in heaven when I die. Hmmm, I wonder where these virgins come from, and when I eventually run out of 71 virgins will I automatically get new ones of will I have to have sex with nonvirgins? I guess it’s best not to think of those things.”

    • ladyatheist
      Posted October 10, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      The more 15-year-old girls they assassinate the more they get to enjoy in paradise

  12. Posted October 10, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for posting this. What an incredible human being!

    I am also very moved by the following, highlighting Oct. 11 as Intl. Day of the Girl Child:

    “This right for girls is far too commonly neglected”, said EP President Martin Schulz, announcing the laureate. “As tomorrow 11 October is the International Day of the Girl Child, I would like to recall that some 250 million young girls around the world cannot freely go to school. Malala’s example reminds us of our duty and responsibility to the right to education for children. This is the best investment for the future”, he added.”

  13. Steven Obrebski
    Posted October 10, 2013 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    I saw her on the Jon Stewart show yesterday. Very poised, excellent command of English, she made an excellent argument for the education of women and everyone else. A fitting recipient for the prize. Unfortunately, educated women threaten the old barbaric male dominated family and social structure established by her religion. I wonder if she will, later in her life, remain in Pakistan?

  14. Diane G.
    Posted October 10, 2013 at 10:16 pm | Permalink


  15. Posted October 11, 2013 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Malala has now said that she wants to someday become the Prime Minister of Pakistan!

  16. Diane G.
    Posted October 12, 2013 at 12:56 am | Permalink

    More power to her.

    It’s really somewhat astounding that Pakistan has already had female Prime Minister.

%d bloggers like this: