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2013 Nobel Peace Prize: 5 Heavy Contenders

This Friday, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient will be named. In a year with unfathomable conflict and chaos, there are still notable gains in the betterment of the world. Amid the buzz on the internet, numerous names have appeared again and again. Here are some of the top contenders for the big prize.

1. Malala Yousafzai

On October 9, 2012, Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai survived being shot by the Taliban and ushered in a new age of activism for women in the region. Malala’s only crime was that she wanted the right to attend school. Lucky for her, and for all of us, Malala survived the shooting and is standing up for women who seek education. She was able to communicate with the rest of the world through the BBC blog, "Diary of a Pakistani Schoolgirl." The Taliban have renewed their threats against Malala, but her voice and nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize have already changed the discourse for her cause.

2. Dr. Denis Mukwege

Amid the horror of violence in conflict-ridden Democratic Republic of Congo, it's hard pressed to find someone aiding the female victims of rape. It's even more hard pressed to find someone who returns to this cause after being exiled and escaping assassination. That man is Dr. Denis Mukwege. Dr. Mukwege is a gynecological surgeon who has operated on and repaired the insides of many Congolese women. Already receiving numerous human rights awards, Dr. Mukwege's fiery speech to the UN on the rapes in the Congo and return from exile make him a formidable candidate for the Prize.

3. Dr. Claudia Paz y Paz

Dr. Claudia Paz y Paz has been appropriately named one of Forbes' "Women Changing the World." The Guatemalan attorney general has been a thorn in the side of organized crime, human rights abusers, and gender-oriented criminals. Not only is she Guatemala's first female attorney general, but she may be the most effective attorney general, as marked by her first prosecution of human rights abuses under General Ríos Montt's dictatorship. She actively fights for justice in spite of constant threats against her by the very criminals she prosecutes.

4. Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, was a U.S. military analyst who leaked the largest cache of government documents to Wikileaks in U.S. history. Among the documents were disparaging documents on the war in Afghanistan. Manning was arrested and put on trial. While he was acquitted of aiding the enemy, Manning was guilty of breaching the Espionage Act. His trial gained attention when his admission of gender identity came to the spotlight. Chelsea Manning is reported to have asked President Obama for a pardon. His leak has been seen as a sacrifice for government transparency.

5. Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden became a major problem for the Obama administration when he revealed to the Guardian that the NSA had been spying on American citizens via a program known as PRISM. The reveal spawned numerous revelations of wiretapping and other surveillance policies, including that of EU and other world officials. After his fate was in limbo, Russia granted Snowden asylum to the disappointment of the Obama administration. Snowden has built a cult of personality for being a whistle blower for the American people. 

6. Russian Activists

While Russian President Vladmir Putin has apparently been nominated, his domestic opposition has been proven to be an internationally recognized cause. Groups of LGBT and women’s rights activists have organized to protest Putin's regressive policies against human rights. Many have been silenced and thrown in jail, but the activists continue to fight for human rights in the face of the upcoming Sochi Olympics. Considering that the big prize went to the EU last year, a collective recipient isn't out of question.

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