Historical story

Nobel Peace Prize for Fighting Oppression

The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize goes to two people:the Pakistani Malala Yousafzai and the Indian Kailash Satyarthi. They receive the prize for their fight against the oppression of young people and for the right of all children to education.

Malala Yousafzai (1997) is the youngest Nobel laureate to ever receive the prize. In her native Pakistan, she campaigned for girls' right to education. In 2009, when Malala was only 11 years old, she became known worldwide for her anonymous 'diary' on the BBC website. In it she described the acts of violence perpetrated by the Taliban in the Swat Valley, an area in northern Pakistan. By then, the Taliban had already destroyed dozens of girls' schools.

According to conservative leaders, women are not expected to educate themselves or express their views. The diary, as well as her repeated calls for the right to education for girls, therefore fell wrong with the Taliban rulers from the start. Malala and her family regularly received death threats. Despite the threats, she continued to speak out for women's rights and against the extremism of the Taliban.

When the Pakistani army recaptured the Swat Valley in May 2009 and Malala's identity became known, she came to international attention as an icon for the defense of women's rights. Since then, she has been awarded several prizes, including the International Children's Peace Prize in 2012 and the prestigious European Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Speech in 2013.

Her struggle nearly cost Malala her life in 2012. As she got off a school bus, she was asked for her name by a Taliban supporter and then shot three times in the head. She survived the attack through specialist treatment in Pakistan and later in England. Today Malala lives in England, where she is safe from the Taliban.

In Pakistan, despite the diminished influence of the Taliban, Malala is not equally popular with everyone. Many in the conservative country see her as a traitor, a CIA-sponsored agent bent on tarnishing Pakistan's image abroad.


Malala shares her Nobel Prize with much lesser-known Indian human rights activist Kailash Satyarthi. Since the 1980s, he has been particularly active against child labor in Indian industry. Outside India, he is active in organizations that make Western consumers aware of the exploitation of children in the Indian (textile) industry. Like Malala, Kailash Satyarthi has already received many international awards. And now also a Nobel Prize, perhaps the highest attainable.

It is no coincidence that the Nobel Committee has decided to award the Peace Prize to a Pakistani and an Indian, a Muslim and a Hindu. Pakistan and India, two nuclear-armed military superpowers, have been in conflict over the province of Kashmir since both countries gained independence from Britain in 1947. Tensions appeared to have calmed down recently, but in recent weeks violence has flared up again along the disputed border. The Nobel Committee stressed the importance for both Hindus and Muslims to fight together against extremism and for education.

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