Afghan burqa opponent wins ‘alternative Nobel’

STOCKHOLM (TIP): Afghan human rights activist, ex-minister and burqa opponent Sima Samar on Thursday won the Swedish Right Livelihood Award honouring those who work to improve the lives of others. Samar, 55, was honoured “for her longstanding and courageous dedication to human rights, especially the rights of women, in one of the most complex and dangerous regions in the world”, the jury said.

A doctor by training, she fled to Pakistan in 1984 when her husband disappeared following arrest by Afghanistan’s communist regime. She returned in 2001 to become the first minister of women’s affairs, but had to resign after six months after she criticized sharia law in an interview in Canada. She was in 2002 named the head of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, which she still leads.

Samar shares award with US political theorist Gene Sharp, 84, whom the jury described as “the world’s foremost expert on non-violent revolution”, and Campaign Against Arms Trade, a NGOcompaigning for an end to British arms exports.

An honorary prize was awarded to 90-year-old Hayrettin Karaca, “considered the grandfather of the Turkish environmental movement,” the jury said.

Swedish-German philatelist Jakob von Uexkull founded the donor-funded prize in 1980 after the Nobel Foundation refused to create awards honouring efforts in the fields of the environment and international development.

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The three winners share the prize sum of $193,000.

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