PESHAWAR: Educationist Ziauddin Yousafzai has confirmed that his family had refused the US State Department’s International Women of Courage award for his daughter Malala Yousafzai.
In reply to an email, Ziauddin Yousafzai said: “We refused the State Department award due to reasons that I may share at the proper time.”
Though he declined to disclose the reasons for refusing the award, it is possible Malala’s family wants to keep a distance from the US government at this stage due to the strong anti-US sentiment in Pakistan.
Another reason could be the family’s wish to concentrate on Malala’s full recovery from the injuries she suffered last year at the hands of the Taliban assailants in her native Mingora in Swat district.
A number of organizations in Western countries have been offering awards to Malala and most want her to personally receive the honour once she is able to travel.
Earlier, the US State Department had indicated that Malala Yousafzai was among those selected to receive this year’s award but it was withdrawn on the request of her family.
State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland was quoted as saying that the US admired Malala for her bravery in the face of adversity but it also understood the family’s preference to focus on her recovery.
The selection of this year’s awards has posed problems for the US State Department. Ten awards were to be given but the one meant for an Egyptian human rights activist, Samira Ibrahim, was withdrawn at the last moment after it was found out that her Twitter account included anti-American and anti-Semitic comments. She was being honoured for campaigning against “virginity tests” on female protestors in Egypt.
The 26-year old Samira Ibrahim denied that she attacked any religion on Twitter and refused to apologize to the “Zionist lobby in America.” She also claimed her Twitter account which carried tweets praising attacks on US diplomatic installations and against Israeli civilians in Bulgaria was hacked. The refusal of Malala Yousafzai’s family to receive the award caused another headache to the US State Department. Eventually, nine awards were given to women from different countries on March 8 by Secretary of State John Kerry and First Lady Michele Obama.
The recipients included Malalai Bahaduri of Afghanistan, China’s Woeser who is a Tibetan blogger, Syrian human rights activist Razan Zaitouneh, Somalia’s Fartuun Adan, Russian journalist Elena Milashina, Julieta Castellanos of Honduras, Nigerian Dr Josephine Odumakin, Ta Phong Tan from Vietnam and the unnamed 23-year old Indian student who was gangraped and tortured in a moving bus in New Delhi last December and later thrown by the roadside. Her death due to her injuries triggered massive protests in India. She has been given the name Nirbhava, which means the fearless. Three Pakistani women have received the US State Department’s International Women of Courage award, which was instituted in 2007. They include Dr Begum Jan, founder of the Tribal Women Association hailing from South Waziristan who was honoured in 2008, Shad Begum who is executive director of the non-governmental organization, Association for Behaviour and Knowledge Transformation, Lower Dir district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Ghulam Sughra, head of the Marvi Rural Development Organization in Punjab. Shad Begun was given the award in 2012 and Ghulam Sughra in 2011.