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Activists honored in 'alternative Nobels'

Afghan doctor Sima Samar has been awarded the Rights Livelihood Award for her dedication to human rights. Other recipients of the "alternative Nobel" include scholar Gene Sharp and Britain's Campaign Against Arms Trade.

Four activists were awarded Sweden's prestigious 2012 Right Livelihood Award on Thursday their work promoting human rights, conservation and combating the global arms trade.

Sima Samar, 55, was honored by the jury "for her longstanding and courageous dedication to human rights, especially the rights of women, in one of the most complex and dangerous regions in the world."

A medical doctor by training, Samar (pictured above) became Afghanistan's first minister of women's affairs in 2001. She was forced to resign six months later after criticizing Shariah law in an interview in Canada, but went on to become the head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. She also served as UN special rapporteur on human rights in Sudan from 2005 to 2009.

Her Shuhada Organization currently runs 71 schools and 15 clinics and hospitals in Afghanistan.

Samar shares the 150,000 euro ($195,000) cash prize in part with American political theorist Gene Sharp, 84, who was described as the "the world's foremost expert on non-violent revolution."

He was celebrated for "developing and articulating the core principles and strategies of non-violent resistance and supporting their practical implementation in conflict areas around the world."

In the past Samar and Sharp have both been touted as potential winners of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Honorary prize awarded

The third award went to the British-based Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which also won a 50,000 euro share of the prize. The organization was credited for its "innovative and effective campaigning against the global trade in arms."

An honorary prize was also awarded to Turkish businessman and environmentalist Hayrettin Karaca, who co-founded an international movement that combats soil erosion and protects natural habitats. The 90-year-old was described by the jury as "the grandfather of the Turkish environmental movement.

The Right Livelihood Award was created by Swedish-German philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull in 1980 after the Nobel Foundation behind the Nobel Prizes refused to create awards honoring efforts in environmental and international development.

The donor-funded prize is designed to "to honor and support those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today."

Thursday's winners were chosen from 122 nominations from 52 countries. Their awards are due to be presented at a ceremony in the Swedish parliament on December 7.

ccp/mz (AFP, dpa, AP)