Nobel Peace Prize glory also has a darker side

Wed Oct 9, 2013 10:10am EDT
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By Alister Doyle and Balazs Koranyi

OSLO (Reuters) - Alongside the glory, the Nobel Peace Prize has a darker side likely to make the awards committee think hard before honoring a Pakistani teenage activist shot by the Taliban who is favorite to win on Friday.

The prize has changed the lives of presidents, freedom fighters or humble human rights workers but some winners say it is hard to be put on a lifelong pedestal where actions, flaws and foibles can get judged against a yardstick of sainthood.

This year that flip side of fame is more relevant than ever because Malala Yousafzai, shot in the head by the Taliban a year ago on Wednesday for demanding education for girls, is just 16.

All other winners have made career choices as adults. She would be half the age of the youngest winner of the award since it was set up in 1901 - Tawakul Karman, a Yemeni peace activist, was 32 when she shared the prize in 2011.

Geir Lundestad, who hosts and attends the meetings of the peace committee as director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, says there is no age limit.

"It will transform their lives," he said of new laureates.

"They will be flooded by invitations. They will be listened to, and some of them may even be considered saints," he said. "But I haven't met anyone yet who regrets being selected for the Nobel Peace Prize."

This year there are a record 259 nominees but Yousafzai has been widely nominated. The committee of five, usually political appointees from Norway's top parties, whittles them down before picking a winner from a shortlist which is not made public.   Continued...

A woman browses a copy of Malala Yousufzai's book "I am Malala" at a book store in Islamabad October 8, 2013. REUTERS/Mian Khursheed