Refugee Olympic Teams and Turkish pianist are given human rights awards

December 19, 2016

Human rights awards – one of my favorite topics [] – come  in many shapes and forms. Here two special ones: the first concerns a handicapped swimmer from Syria and other refugee related recipients (in Madrid) and the second a Turkish pianist (in Bonn).

Ibrahim Al Hussein - Human Rights Award Spain
Ibrahim Al Hussein receiving the Human Rights Award from the Spanish General Council the Bar © • IPC

Under the slogan “DerechosRefugiados, A journey without end?” Spain’s General Council of the Bar to theme its Human Rights Awards this year, extraordinarily, to refugees. The awards for persons  were presented to Yonas Kinde of the Refugee Olympic Team and to Ibrahim Al-Hussein of the Independent Paralympic Athletes’ (IPA) Team , as an example of overcoming war and persecution through sport. Kinde valued the representation of refugees at Rio 2016 because it allowed him to be “a symbol for all refugees in the world.” Al-Hussein said he was very grateful for the award because it means he can “spread the message of refugees further.” Al-Hussein who left Syria for Greece after losing his leg in a rocket attack competed in swimming at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. In the ‘Institutions’ category, the prize went to Women’s Link Worldwide, whose main objective is to protect the rights of migrant and refugee women and combat trafficking. In the category of ‘Media’, journalist Javier Bauluz was recognised for his part in some of the best global coverage of the refugee crisis in Europe. The “Nacho de la Mata” prize was awarded this year to José Palazón, an activist on children and unaccompanied minors in Melilla and founder of the NGO PRODEIN. A ‘Special Prize’ was awarded to Carlos Carnicer for his work in defending the rights of refugees and human rights throughout his life.

Beethoven Prize awarded to Fazil Say

Fazil Say Pianist Türkei Deutschland (picture-alliance / Sven Simon)

Once convicted of insulting Islam, the Turkish pianist and composer remains controversial in his homeland. In Bonn, he has now been recognized for his art of inclusion.
In its second year of existence the Beethoven Prize for Human Rights, Peace, Freedom, Combating Poverty, and Inclusion goes to Fazil Say, 46. His “inclusiveness” its exactly what has given him trouble in the increasingly polarized society of contemporary Turkey, where standing up for Western values can sometimes be dangerous. Say is an outspoken advocate of freedom of religion and opinion – and a critic of the policies of his government. He is a factor to be reckoned with, and his conviction for blasphemy was eventually suspended. The Beethoven Prize also comes with a cash award of 10,000 euros. Fazil Say referred to the catastrophe in Syria and to the three million Syrian refugees in Turkey. “I think it’s good that the Beethoven Academy sees this drama. It’s good not only for the people from Syria, but for Germany too”.

Inclusiveness is one qualifying category for the Beethoven Prize. The proceeds of this and other events go to music projects in crisis regions. One such project was suggested by Aeham Ahmad, the winner of the first Beethoven Prize in 2015, who wants to perform in a refugee camp in the Middle East. The Syrian pianist had become a YouTube star after he dragged his piano onto a street in Yarmouk, a bombed-out refugee camp outside of Damascus to perform for war-weary citizens. After a perilous flight to Germany, he is now a recognized asylum seeker, reunited with his wife and children and performing concerts nearly daily.

GMF Porträt Aeham Ahmad Piano (Niraz Saied)

Although the pianist, singer and composer has written new music in the past year, “I still sing for Yarmouk,” he says. “With the news from Aleppo, I feel ashamed thinking of my friends in Yarmouk, because I came here alone. I still want to remember my friends and to tell the people about the war in Syria.”

[The Beethoven Academy was founded in March 2016 by Torsten Schreiber of the Wasmuth Society in Rolandeck and by Andreas Loesch, President of the Festival of Young Artists in Bayreuth]


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