I tweeted a lot in the last few days. I was at the European Parliament to celebrate 25th Sakharov Prize anniversary. All the Sakharov Laureates were there except Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Hu Jia, Jafar Panahi and a few others. Shirin Ebadi the Nobel Peace Prize winner came to represent Nasrin Sotoudeh, the Iranian lawyer who received Sakharov Prize last year. We attended many conferences, seminars on Human Rights, official lunch and dinner.
On November 20, the Children’s Rights Day, Pakistani girl Malala Yousufzai was given Sakharov prize for freedom of thought by the president of the European Parliament. Malala is a brave girl. Talibans wanted her to be dead. But she survived. Thanks to the medical science and skilled physicians. Malala has been talking about the children’s rights to education in the region where talibans burnt down girls schools. She was shot in her head for ignoring the taliban’s rules. She deserves to be awarded and to be encouraged to continue her advocacy to promote children’s rights to education. Malala has already become the symbol of resistance to the fanaticism.
Malala is not alone. The whole world is supporting her. Many agencies and film, fashion, music, publication etc. industries are now behind her. This is probably good for her. Her story is getting known to many more. Though sometimes I get disturbed by some questions and comments like whether girls education was always forbidden in Pakistan or it was Malala who started education for girls. I told them that girls education started in Pakistan centuries ago, girls schools were already there, so that the taliban could burnt them down.
After she got the Sakharov prize we the Sakharov Laureates took family photos. In the photo below, Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament is standing between Malala and me. I congratulated Malala for the prize. She shook my hand with expressionless face. I came from the Indian subcontinent, almost from the same background, fighting religious fundamentalists for women’s rights, but her expression tells me that it means nothing to her. She in her speech expressed that the names of the previous Sakharov laureates that amazed her were Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi and Kofi Annan. A few dats ago I requested the European Parliament to arrange for my meeting with Malala when we both would be at the parliament. But I was told that no bilateral meeting would be possible for Malala. She is now like a big superstar, no one can touch her. I imagine how busy she is with hundreds of different things in the West but I never could imagine she would not talk to any Sakharov Laureate, give no interview to any media after getting the prize and she would not be present in the discussion on children’s right at the European Parliament and would not be present even in the official dinner hosted by the President of the European Parliament for her honor. I heard her father said no to everything. I wish she could be herself. Would she be able to be herself someday in this protective environment? The glamour world and the business world both are dangerous for human rights activists.
I did not expect but was not shocked either when Malala started her official speech in the name of Allah. She said, Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim while she was giving a speech at the secular European Parliament. Malala believes in Allah and Islam. She often praises Islam and talks about women’s freedom. I wish she knew ‘religion is not compatible with women’s rights’.
Everybody loves Malala. I am afraid she will be able to convince young Muslim girls that Islam is a good religion that respects women and it is good to wear Islamic veils. She talks about changing the world by books and pens. All children need books and pens. But the truth is, in all Muslim countries including Malala’s Pakistan, children are given the book called Quran to be indoctrinated in order to change the world to Darul Islam. The Taliban use pens to write the names whom they plan to kill. I think it is better to mention what kinds of books are needed to make the world a better lace. And what should be done with pens.
I asked a politically incorrect question to children rights activists during children’s rights debate at the parliament: ‘You have been talking about children’s right to an adequate standard of living, health care, education and to play and recreation. You have been talking about children’s right to protection from abuse, neglect, exploitation and discrimination. But you are not saying for once that children should not be brainwashed to be superstitious, racists, chauvinists, misogynists, fanatics, terrorists. Why don’t the activists say that brainwashing children with parents’ religion or with any other religion is against children’s rights and mutilating or cutting children’s genitals in the name of religion, culture, tradition is also against children’s rights?’
Seriously, no good answer was given to me. A woman said she was fighting against female genital mutilation. I asked ‘what about boys genital mutilation?’ She wrinkled her forehead as if she never heard that boys got also mutilated.
I don’t get surprised easily. A European Parliament’s official secretly informed me that there might be a plan to give Sakharov award to Pope.
FYI, the Sakharov Prize was established in 1988 in honour of Russian nuclear scientist and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is the highest tribute to human rights endeavors the European Union accords. It gives recognition and moral support to the Laureates, who are strengthened and empowered in their fight for their causes. Sakharov Laureates are seen in a group photo on November 20, 2013 at the European Parliament. They are from Bosnia, Bangladesh, Turkey, China, Algeria, East Timor, Spain, Israel,Angola, Cuba,Belarus, Nigeria, France, Russia,Sudan, Libya, Iran and now Pakistan.