Asian Nobel Peace Prize Laureates

These Nobel Peace Prize laureates from Asian nations have worked tirelessly to improve life and promote peace in their own countries, and around the world.

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Le Duc Tho - 1973

Le Duc Tho in 1973
Le Duc Tho of Vietnam was the first person from Asia to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Central Press / Getty Images

Le Duc Tho (1911-1990) and US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger were awarded a joint 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the Paris Peace Accords that ended US involvement in the Vietnam War. Le Duc Tho declined the award, on grounds that Vietnam was not yet at peace.

The government of Vietnam later sent Le Duc Tho to help stabilize Cambodia after the Vietnamese army overthrew the murderous Khmer Rouge regime in Phnom Penh.

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Eisaku Sato - 1974

This photo of Eisaku Sato was taken in 1972.
Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on nuclear non-proliferation. US Gov't via Wikipedia

Former Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato (1901-1975) shared the 1974 Nobel Peace Prize with Ireland's Sean MacBride.

Sato was honored for his attempt to quell Japanese nationalism after World War II, and for signing the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty on behalf of Japan in 1970.

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The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso - 1989

After 50 years in exile, the Dalai Lama soldiers on.
The 14th Dalai Lama, head of the Tibetan Buddhist sect and the Tibetan Government-in-exile in India. Junko Kimura / Getty Images

His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso (1935-present), the 14th Dalai Lama, was awarded the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize for his advocacy of peace and understanding among the world's various peoples and religions.

Since his exile from Tibet in 1959, the Dalai Lama has traveled extensively, urging universal peace and freedom.

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Aung San Suu Kyi - 1991

Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's imprisoned opposition leader. U.S. State Department

One year after her election as Burma's president was nullified, Aung San Suu Kyi (1945-present) received the Noble Peace Prize "for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights" (quoting the Nobel Peace Prize website).

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi cites Indian independence advocate Mohandas Gandhi as one of her inspirations. After her election, she spent about 15 years in prison or under house arrest.  

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Yasser Arafat - 1994

Arafat was Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization
Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestinians, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for the Oslo Accord with Israel. Getty Images

In 1994, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (1929-2004) shared the Nobel Peace Prize with two Israeli politicians, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin. The three were honored for their work towards peace in the Middle East.

The prize came after the Palestinians and Israelis agreed to the Oslo Accords of 1993. Unfortunately, this agreement did not produce a solution to the Arab/Israeli conflict.

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Shimon Peres - 1994

As of 2009, Peres is the President of Israel
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres helped craft the Oslo Accord for peace with the Palestinians. Alex Wong / Getty Images

Shimon Peres (1923-present) shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin. Peres was Israel's Foreign Minister during the Oslo talks; he has also served as both Prime Minister and President.

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Yitzhak Rabin - 1994

Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli radical shortly after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize
Yitzhak Rabin, who was Prime Minister of Israel during the negotiations that resulted in the Oslo Accord. US Air Force / Sgt. Robert G. Clambus

Yitzhak Rabin (1922-1995) was Israel's Prime Minister during the Oslo talks. Sadly, he was assassinated by a member of the Israeli radical right shortly after winning the Nobel Peace Prize. His assassin, Yigal Amir, was violently opposed to the terms of the Oslo Accord.

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Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo - 1996

Belo shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Jose Ramos-Horta, later President of East Timor
Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, who helped lead resistance to Indonesian rule in East Timor. Gugganij via Wikipedia

Bishop Carlos Belo (1948-present) of East Timor shared the Nobel Peace Prize for 1996 with his countryman José Ramos-Horta.

They won the award for their work toward a "just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor." Bishop Belo advocated for Timorese freedom with the United Nations, called international attention to massacres perpetrated by the Indonesian military against the people of East Timor, and sheltered refugees from the massacres in his own home (at great personal risk).

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Jose Ramos-Horta - 1996

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

José Ramos-Horta (1949-present) was the head of the East Timorese opposition in exile during the struggle against Indonesian occupation. He shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with Bishop Carlos Belo.

East Timor (Timor Leste) gained its independence from Indonesia in 2002. Ramos-Horta became the new nation's first Foreign Minister, then its second Prime Minister. He assumed the presidency in 2008 after sustaining serious gunshot wounds in an assassination attempt.

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Kim Dae-jung - 2000

Junko Kimura / Getty Images

South Korea's President Kim Dae-jung (1924-2009) won the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize for his "Sunshine Policy" of rapprochement towards North Korea.

Prior to his presidency, Kim was a vocal advocate of human rights and democracy in South Korea, which was under military rule throughout much of the 1970s and 1980s. Kim spent time in prison for his pro-democracy activities and even narrowly avoided execution in 1980.

His presidential inauguration in 1998 marked the first peaceful transfer of power from one political party to another in South Korea. As president, Kim Dae-jung traveled to North Korea and met with Kim Jong-il. His attempts to forestall North Korea's development of nuclear weapons did not succeed, however.

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Shirin Ebadi - 2003

Before the Iranian Revolution, she was the first female judge
Shirin Ebadi, Iranian lawyer and human rights activist, who campaigns for the rights of women and children. Johannes Simon / Getty Images

Iran's Shirin Ebadi (1947-present) won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize "for her efforts for democracy and human rights. She has focused especially on the struggle for the rights of women and children."

Prior to the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Ms. Ebadi was one of Iran's premier lawyers and the first female judge in the country. After the revolution, women were demoted from these important roles, so she turned her attention to advocacy of human rights. Today, she works as a university professor and lawyer in Iran.

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Muhammad Yunus - 2006

Yunus is known as the "Banker to the Poor"
Muhammad Yunus, founder of Bangladesh's Grameen Bank, one of the first microlending organizations. Junko Kimura / Getty Images

Muhammad Yunus (1940-present) of Bangladesh shared the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize with the Grameen Bank, which he created in 1983 to provide access to credit for some of the world's poorest people.

Based on the idea of micro-financing - providing small start-up loans for impoverished entrepreneurs - the Grameen Bank has been a pioneer in community development.

The Nobel committee cited Yunus and Grameen's "efforts to create economic and social development from below." Muhammad Yunus is a member of the Global Elders group, which also includes Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, and other distinguished political leaders and thinkers.

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Liu Xiaobo - 2010

Liu Xiaobo Chinese Dissident Nobel Prize Winner
Portrait of Liu Xiaobo, Chinese dissident writer, with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Nancy Pelosi /

Liu Xiaobo (1955 - present) has been a human rights activist and political commentator since the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989. He has also been a political prisoner since 2008, unfortunately, convicted of calling for the end of communist one-party rule in China.

Liu was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize while incarcerated, and the Chinese government denied him permission to have a representative receive the prize in his stead.

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Tawakkul Karman - 2011

Tawwakul Karman of Yemen, Nobel Laureate
Tawwakul Karman of Yemen, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Ernesto Ruscio / Getty Images

Tawakkul Karman (1979 - present) of Yemen is a politician and senior member of the Al-Islah political party, as well as being a journalist and women's rights advocate.  She is a co-founder of the human rights group Women Journalists Without Chains and often leads protests and demonstrations.

After Karman received a death threat in 2011, reportedly from Yemen's President Saleh himself, the government of Turkey offered her citizenship, which she accepted.  She is now a dual citizen but remains in Yemen.  She shared the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia.

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Kailash Satyarthi - 2014

Kailash Satyarthi of India, Nobel Laureate
Kailash Satyarthi of India, Peace Prize Laureate. Neilson Barnard / Getty Images

Kailash Satyarthi (1954 - present) of India is a political activist who has spent decades working to end child labor and slavery.  His activism is directly responsible for the International Labour Organization's ban on the most damaging forms of child labor, called Convention No. 182.

Satyarthi shared the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize with Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan.  The Nobel committee wanted to foster cooperation on the subcontinent by selecting a Hindu man from India and a Muslim woman from Pakistan, of different ages, but who are working toward common goals of education and opportunity for all children.

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Malala Yousafzai - 2014

Malala Yousefzai of Pakistan, Nobel Laureate
Malala Yousefzai of Pakistan, education advocate and youngest even Nobel Peace Prize recipient. Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Malala Yousafzai (1997-present) of Pakistan is known around the world for her courageous advocacy for female education in her conservative region - even after Taliban members shot her in the head in 2012.  

Malala is the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.  She was just 17 when she accepted the 2014 award, which she shared with Kailash Satyarthi of India.