LONDON -- In a possible preview of Friday’s Nobel Peace Prize announcement, the European Union awarded its top human rights prize Thursday to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot by the Taliban for championing education for girls.
It was the latest of many honors bestowed on the 16-year-old, who has become a celebrated international figure since surviving an assassination attempt last year that shocked the world.
The award could play Golden Globe to the Nobel’s Oscar. Bookies list Malala as one of the favorites to win the peace prize, even though she is a somewhat controversial figure in Pakistan and some commentators question the wisdom of thrusting such a weighty responsibility on a teenager. Malala would be the youngest person to win the award.
No such qualms afflicted the 28-nation EU, where Malala’s nomination for its Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was backed by elected representatives across Europe’s broad political spectrum.
“The European Parliament acknowledges the incredible strength of this young woman. Malala bravely stands for the right of all children to be granted a fair education,” the parliament’s president, Martin Schulz, said. “This right for girls is far too commonly neglected.”
The prize is named after Andrei Sakharov, the scientist who rose to prominence as a dissident of the Soviet Union.
Malala now lives in England, to which she was flown from Pakistan’s scenic but militant-ridden Swat Valley for treatment of the injuries she sustained in the Taliban’s Oct. 9, 2012, attack on her in a school van. She underwent surgery several times to reconstruct her skull and to restore her hearing.
The articulate, self-possessed teenager has been a fixture in the British media of late, owing to the publication of her memoir, “I Am Malala,” in which she mixes her advocacy of girls’ education with glimpses of her life as an adolescent partial to Justin Bieber and the “Twilight” vampire movies.
In July, she delivered an address at United Nations headquarters on her 16th birthday. More recently, she appeared on “The Daily Show” with host Jon Stewart.