With the Nobel Peace Prize to be announced Friday, this year’s winner from some 381 nominees will join a litany of past recipients from a diverse list of politicians, activists and others who’ve been mired in controversy.
While the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), an independent foundation, has put together its annual shortlist of prize contenders, a number of lesser-known nominees are worth highlighting.
Marwan Barghouti, who was nominated by the Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, is a former leader of the Palestinian organization Fatah. This year Barghouti led a mass hunger strike among Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
The 80-day action, which began on April 17, Palestinian Prisoner’s Day, led to almost 80 percent of the 1500 strikers’ demands being met, as Israel conceded.
Barghouti is currently serving a life sentence after being convicted in 2004 by an Israeli court for five counts of murder in attacks against Israelis during the second intifada. While right-wing Israeli ministers label him a “murderer and terrorist,” with some even calling for his execution, for many Palestinians he is a hero, often compared to Nelson Mandela.
Arundhati Roy, the Indian writer and activist, is another contender for this year’s prize, nominated by Norwegian Professors of Law Terje Einarsen and Aslak Syse.
The award-winning novelist has a history of activism, writing and acting, with her book “The God of Small Things” winning the Booker Prize in 1997 and bringing her international acclaim.
Roy has also written several non-fiction works in the last two decades, including “Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes On Democracy,” a collection of essays about India’s marginalized communities, “Walking With The Comrades” about the country’s Maoist rebels, “An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire” on the U.S invasion of Iraq and “Capitalism: A Ghost Story”, a book detailing corruption from Delhi to D.C.
The National Security Agency, NSA, whistleblower Edward Snowden has been nominated by a number of Swedish members of parliament.
The former U.S. intelligence contractor leaked thousands of documents in 2013 revealng that the NSA spied on U.S. citizens as well as on foreign presidents in Germany, Mexico, and Brazil.
“With courage and careful judgment, (Snowden) initiated a global debate about surveillance systems that operate beyond democratic control and the rule of law,” the MPs wrote of their nomination.
“Snowden’s contribution is of particular importance today, when the American military’s capacities for interception and disruption in cyberspace are under the authority of a new commander-in-chief,” they added, referring to the U.S. President Donald Trump.
Still, as the PRIO predicts, none of these nominees are likely to be named the winner on Friday.
Among their first predictions are the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who together negotiated the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2015.
The agreement has been shrouded in controversy and antagonism, with Trump expected to announce that he will “decertify” the deal next week, after he called Iran a “rogue state” earlier this month.
Zarif has repeatedly called out the United States for its meddling and interventionism in the Middle East. In July, he said short-sighted policies and a history of U.S. imperialism in the region are the primary cause of terrorism.
Zarif has also criticized the United States’ failure to uphold the “spirit” of the nuclear agreement, when he told the UN Security Council earlier this year that they are “not allowing Iran to enjoy the full benefits of the nuclear deal.”
The regional African body of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has also been nominated for its mediation in The Gambia’s recent political crisis. The group intervened when long-term ruler Yahya Jammeh refused to step down despite being defeated in an election by current President Adama Barrow.
ECOWAS troops have since been stationed in the country, in order “to help bolster security and keep the peace”, since Jammeh was forced into exile last year.
However, rights groups have criticized ECOWAS’ role in Liberia’s civil war in 1990. Its troops led a ‘peacekeeping force’ but were accused of violations during the intervention.
The Syrian Civil Defense – better known as the ‘White Helmets’ – and its leader Raed al Saleh have also made PRIO’s list of top five contenders. The group, hailed by some as ‘humanitarian’ workers, have also been accused by others for their alleged collusion with extremists in Syria.
The group, which began as the “Syria Civil Defense” in Turkey in 2013, was re-branded as the “White Helmets” in 2014.
Its members have mainly worked in rebel-controlled areas of Syria, including those held by groups such as the al-Nusra Front which is affiliated to al-Qaeda.
Its leaders have actively called for U.S. and NATO intervention in the conflict.
Last year, Netflix won an Oscar for its documentary on the group and the White Helmets were also nominated for the Peace Prize in 2016.
The committee has received some big hitting nominations this year – both the US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are said to have been put forward.
But the favorite to win is Pope Francis.
The Argentine pontiff has been a contender since he became head of the Catholic church in 2013.
Top photo | Edward Snowden addressing an audience live in Berlin via video link.
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