STOCKHOLM: Russian dissidents and religious leaders working for Muslim-Christian reconciliation are among the favourites to win the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize when the result is announced on Friday.
“I’m pretty sure the committee would like to honour the monumental events in the Middle East,” said Jan Egeland, the Director of Human Rights Watch Europe.
“But as the Arab Spring turns to ‘autumn’, this is becoming very difficult, so an approach may be to look at those who work for dialogue among religions,” said Egeland, a former United Nations under-secretary general.
The betting agency Unibet favours Maggie Gobran, a Coptic Christian nun who runs a children’s mission in Cairo, giving her a 13 per cent chance of winning.
Others mentioned include Pakistani philanthropist and welfare worker Abdul Sattar Edhi and Nigerian religious leaders John Onaiyekan and Mohamed Sa’ad Abubakar, who have helped to calm their country’s Christian-Muslim violence this year.
A direct recognition of the Arab Spring is unlikely, however, as the committee gave part of its 2011 award to the journalist Tawakkol Karman to recognise her work in Yemen’s transformation, and it rarely visits an issue two years running.
The committee could recognise the struggle to prevent an erosion of human rights in Russia.
Although the Norwegian Nobel Committee is independent of the government, its members are picked by parliament and Jagland is a former prime minister, so foreign governments often see it as an affiliate of the Norwegian state.
Criticism of Russia’s human rights record grew louder this year as the government cracked down on free speech ahead of presidential elections, and members of the punk band Pussy Riot were jailed for a protest in Moscow’s main cathedral against Vladimir Putin, Russia’s dominant leader for almost 13 years.
The list of potential Russian laureates includes Svetlana Gannushkina and the civil rights society Memorial that she helps to lead, and the radio station Ekho Moskvy and its editor Alexei Venediktov.
Other names in vogue include Gene Sharp, a retired American professor of political science known for his work on non-violent struggle, and the Afghan doctor and politician Sima Samar, an advocate of women’s rights in the Muslim world.—Reuters