Why Malala Yousafzai won Europe's $65,000 human rights award

Malala Yousafzai won the Sakharov Award, Europe's top human rights award. The Pakistan teenager was shot by the Taliban for being an advocate for girls' education.

B.K. Bangash/AP
A Pakistani customer looks at a newly published book about Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai at a local bookshop in Islamabad, Pakistan, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013.

European lawmakers awarded their top human rights prize Thursday to Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who last year survived a Taliban assassination attempt because of her outspoken support for girls' education.

U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden and a group of imprisoned Belarus dissidents were also in the running for the 50,000-euro ($65,000) Sakharov Award.

Previous winners include Nobel Peace Prize laureates Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela. The award came one day ahead of the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize, for which Malala also is a contender.

"The European Parliament acknowledges the incredible strength of this young woman," said Martin Schulz, the president of the EU legislature. "Malala bravely stands for the right of all children to be granted a fair education. This right for girls is far too commonly neglected."

Europe's three major political groups had nominated the schoolgirl in a show of united support for her cause.

The Taliban targeted Malala in the Oct. 2012 shooting because of her outspoken objection to the group's interpretation of Islam that keeps women at home and bars girls from school. Militants still threaten to kill her if she returns home.

After Malala was shot in the face, she was taken for special treatment to a hospital in Birmingham, England. She gradually regained her sight and her voice and was reunited with her parents.

Her recognition has stirred anti-Western sentiments in Pakistan, where a brutal insurgency has killed thousands of civilians and more than 4,000 soldiers.

As The Christian Science Monitor reports, Malala is villified by some Pakistanis.

"While Malala is a global icon for her courageous defense of the right for girls to attend school, at home her star is viewed more dimly.

Anti-Malala material has popped up in Pakistan through social media - a Facebook page called "I Hate Malala" originated in Pakistan. Images of the teenager with Western leaders have been circulated with rumors that the leaders are Malala's CIA connections. The Pakistani Taliban, meanwhile, has said it would target her again if she returned to her home country."

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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