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Malala Yousufzai – photo courtesy Nighat Dad

WASHINGTON: A senior American lawmaker on Wednesday distributed a letter in the US Congress, urging her colleagues to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Malala Yousufzai.

Separately, thousands of people have signed an online petition to nominate Malala for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Angelina Jolie, a famous American actress who is also a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations, was the first to propose this idea, saying that the 14-year-old girl deserved a Nobel Prize for standing up to the forces that others did not have the courage to confront.

Malala, who was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman for speaking up for her rights, is undergoing treatment at a British hospital in Birmingham.

“Malala … stood against the oppressive policies imposed upon the citizens of Pakistan by the Taliban. Her stand for education for girl and gender equality resulted in a fatwa issued by the Taliban calling for her death,” Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee wrote in her letter.

The congresswoman, a Democrat from Texas who has been a member of the House since 1995, also heads the Pakistan caucus on the Hill and is one of few US lawmakers who still openly support Pakistan.

“The shooting of this young girl has sent shockwaves through the region and around the world; religious leaders and communities are condemning her shooting, yet the Taliban remains unrepentant,” the congresswoman wrote.

“Malala has displayed true courage as she continued to fight for justice, even while her life was in danger. Because of her courage, Malala Yousufzai has become a symbol of hope in a country long beset by violence and oppression,” she noted.

“It is fitting that Malala has become the new face of Pakistan. She represents the future of Pakistan, where young girls can attend school and expect equal rights.”

Congresswoman Lee noted that Malala’s actions demonstrated the power one child can have on an entire region. “Her message could not be silenced by the cowardly acts of the few. It is my firm belief that we should honour her message and recognise her bravery,” she said. “I, like all of you, value the need for education, justice, and gender equality. Join me in supporting this legislation to honour Malala Yousufzai and her message,” she wrote.