LONDON — The European Parliament awarded its prestigious Sakharov human rights prize Thursday to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for her advocacy of girls’ education.
Yousafzai, 16, has become a global symbol of bravery after being attacked on her way home from school in the Swat Valley, in northwestern Pakistan, a year ago. She is seen as a strong contender for the Nobel Peace Prize, due to be announced Friday.
Yousafzai was chosen to receive the $65,000 Sakharov Prize by the head of all the political groups in the 766-member European Parliament. She was a less contentious choice than Edward J. Snowden, the US intelligence contractor whose disclosures about US and British electronic surveillance have angered the governments in those countries, and who was also shortlisted for the prize.
Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said in a statement issued in Strasbourg, France, on Thursday: “By awarding the Sakharov Prize to Malala Yousafzai, 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. This right for girls is far too commonly neglected.”
After being shot in October 2012, Yousafzai was brought to Britain for emergency surgery. She has recovered well from her injuries and appeared before the United Nations in July, where she delivered an impassioned appeal for children’s right to an education.
She lives with her family in Birmingham, England, and published a memoir this week amid considerable media attention. She is a more controversial figure at home in Pakistan, where right-wing critics accuse her of pandering to Western culture and political agendas.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was established in 1988 in honor of the Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov. Previous recipients include Nelson Mandela.
Paddy Power, an Irish bookmaker, on Thursday listed Yousafzai as the second favorite to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, behind Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist who has treated women who have been gang-raped during the continuing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
But William Hill, a bookmaker in Britain, offered odds of 4-6 on her receiving the Nobel Prize, leading a field of contenders that includes Snowden at 20-1, and Julian Assange, the founder of the antisecrecy organization WikiLeaks, at 25-1.
The Harvard Foundation presented her its annual Humanitarian Award last month.