Nobel Committee surprises with peace prize decision

October 11, 2013

Nobel Peace Prize goes to chemical weapons watchdog, Lebanese poor attempt dangerous escapes, and decorated activist Malala Yousafzai faces criticism from home. Today is Friday, October 11, the U.N.’s international day of the girl child. Here’s the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

A U.N. chemical weapons expert, wearing a gas mask, holds a plastic bag containing samples from one of the sites of an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Ain Tarma neighborhood of Damascus, August 29, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Abdullah

And the award goes to… The Nobel Prize Committee announced on Friday that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been awarded the 2013 peace prize. The organization sent a team of experts to investigate a poison gas attack that killed more than 1,400 Syrians in August:

Thorbjoern Jagland, the head of the Nobel Peace Prize committee, said the award was a reminder to nations with big stocks, such as the United States and Russia, to get rid of their own reserves “especially because they are demanding that others do the same, like Syria.”… The Hague-based OPCW was set up in 1997 to implement a 1992 global Chemical Weapons Convention to banish chemical arms and most recently helped destroy stockpiles in Iraq and Libya. It has about 500 staff and an annual budget under $100 million. “We now have the opportunity to get rid of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction…That would be a great event in history if we could achieve that,” he said.

A senior Russian lawmaker commented that “this is one of the best choices made by the Nobel Laureate committee in its history,” on state television. Russia is a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and contends that Syria’s rebels were responsible for August’s chemical attack. OPCW said on Wednesday that Syria is cooperating with their mission, adding that country could meet the U.N. issued mid-2014 deadline for destroying its chemical stocks. While apparent progress is being made in ridding Syria of chemical weapons, traditional warfare continues to ravage the country. According to opposition activists, troops loyal to the Assad regime recaptured two rebel-held suburbs of Damascus on Friday, strengthening Assad’s hold on supply lines and killing at least 70 people. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, roughly 115,000 people have been killed in the conflict since it began in March, 2011.

Hussein Ahmed Khodor, a survivor of a boat that sank off the Indonesian coast, mourns for his wife and eight children who died during the boat accident at Beirut international airport, October 6, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Fleeing Lebanon. As Syrian refugees pour into Lebanon, the country’s poor chase a better life abroad. Lebanese migrants have been embarking on dangerous sea voyages to escape life in a country plagued by a failing economy and violence this year:

Hussein Khodor sold his small poster shop in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli to pay the $80,000 cost of smuggling him and his family to Australia where he hoped to build a better life. But the 44-year-old returned to his home in the nearby village of Qabbait on Sunday alone and empty-handed after the boat carrying his family sank off the southern coast of Indonesia last month, killing his wife and their eight children. Despite the ordeal, Khodor says he will do everything possible to leave Lebanon again. “I cannot stay here any more. It’s too hard,” he said.

More than one million Syrians have fled into Lebanon since the start of Syria’s civil war, and the influx has put a strain on the Lebanese job market. Sectarian fighting has also spilled across the border, prompting fears of a repeat of the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war, which killed more than 150,000 people.

Malala Yousafzai, the survivor of a Taliban assassination attempt and an activist for girls’ education, is photographed while taking part in the Social Good Summit in New York, September 23, 2013. REUTERS/Hoda Emam

Resented back home. Malala Yousafzai, shot by the Taliban last year for supporting girls’ educational rights, won the EU’s human rights awards and was expected by many to win this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. But those back home view Malala with suspicion and resentment:

“Malala is spoiling Pakistan’s name around the world,” said Mohammad Rizwan, a shop owner in her hometown of Mingora. “We didn’t need Malala to come and tell us how important education is.”…  In this deeply conservative part of Pakistan, where women are expected to stay at home and keep their views to themselves, many people view Malala’s campaign with suspicion. In a nation thriving on conspiracy theories, some have even doubted the sincerity of her campaign, claiming it is part of her family’s ploy to move to Britain or that she is just an attention seeker. Social media sites are brimming with insulting messages. “We hate Malala Yousafzai, a CIA agent,” says one Facebook page. “Here, people have been unkind to her. They want to forget her. They think she is a drama queen. But what can you do?” said Ahmad Shah, a childhood friend of Malala’s father who helped write her speech at the United Nations this year.

Malala received death threats from the Taliban and was subsequently shot due to her campaign for equal education for girls in Pakistan, a cause she started blogging about in 2009.

Nota Bene: A car bomb near the Swedish consulate in Benghazi leaves no casualties.


Body language – UK scientists say elephants can understand human gestures. (BBC)

Cosmetic tourism – South Korea is a destination for those seeking plastic surgery. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Tech trolley – Google installed Sydney’s defunct monorail in its Australian offices. (The Atlantic Cities)

I do, who? – A German groom forgets his wife at post-honeymoon pit stop. (Associated Press)

Tweet dodge – Jailed Peruvian former president uses Twitter to skirt interview ban. (The Guardian)

From the File:

  • ‘Death to America’ chants challenge Iran’s diplomacy.
  • Egypt police fire teargas on pro- and anti-Mursi crowds.
  • Russia refuses to bail two Greenpeace activists.
  • One day after arrest, Musharraf ordered held for two weeks.
  • China criticizes U.S. for tacitly backing Philippines in sea dispute.
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