The highly prestigious Nobel Prize for Peace is seeing an unprecedented high number of names being put forward this year. There are more than 250 candidates. The list is kept secret. But bookmakers are giving two to one odds that Malala Yousafzai wins it.
The 16-year-old was shot in the head and left for dead by Taliban attackers in her native Pakistan, but she survived. She had been actively campaigning for support for education for girls. If she were chosen, she would be the youngest laureate in the history of the Nobel awards. The speculation in her favour is far from a guarantee; the prize has often been attributed to gain attention for little known causes, and she has earned substantial media attention already.
Chelsea Manning is another one with a high profile; when using the name Bradley, as a soldier in the US Army Chelsea leaked classified information to the public and was convicted for it. Bradley’s support committee says the revelations contributed to the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.
Less known but widely praised: gynaecologist Denis Mukwege had to flee the Democratic Republic of Congo under threat of murder for helping raped women. He has since returned there from exile.
Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan has been cited as a good prospect for his role in Nigeria, promoting changes toward democracy.
Then there’s “Mama Maggie” Gobran, a Coptic Christian nun dubbed the Mother Teresa of Cairo for her services to the poor of all religions in the Egyptian capital.
Russia is presenting more names than any other country this year. Among them are three courageous defenders of human rights: Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Svetlanna Gannushkina and Lilya Shibanova.
It will come as no surprise to some that President Vladimir Putin himself is being cited in the Norwegian Nobel Institute’s list, for his recent pacifying role in the Syrian crisis.
He even enjoys support in the US, where there’s a petition doing the rounds calling on President Barack Obama to yield his 2009 Peace Prize to Putin. The field is wide open. The bets are on. This Friday we’ll know.