Posts Tagged ‘awards’

2021 Aurora Humanitarians Announced

May 6, 2021

On 24 April 2021 the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative has revealed the names of five 2021 Aurora Humanitarians, chosen by the Aurora Prize Selection Committee for their courage, commitment and impact. The announcement was made today at the Matenadaran, the national repository of ancient manuscripts located in Yerevan, Armenia. During this special event, the attendees also paid tribute to the great scholar and philanthropist Vartan Gregorian, Co-Founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and member of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee, who passed away a few days ago. In accordance with the tradition, the names of the 2021 Aurora Humanitarians have been inscribed in the Chronicles of Aurora, a unique 21st century manuscript containing the depictions of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative activities. For 2020 see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/17/fartuun-adan-and-ilwad-elman-from-somalia-named-2020-aurora-prize-winners/

One of the Humanitarians will become the 2021 Aurora Prize Laureate and will receive an opportunity to continue the cycle of giving by sharing a $1,000,000 award with the organizations that help people in need. The 2021 Aurora Humanitarians are:

  • Grégoire Ahongbonon (Côte d’Ivoire), founder of the St Camille Association, which helps people in West Africa suffering from mental illness and seeks to end the inhumane local practice of keeping them in chains. Mr. Ahongbonon has nominated three organizations that promote international solidarity and support people with intellectual disabilities and mental illnesses: CRÉDIL (Lanaudière’s Regional Committee on Education for International Development), L’Arche Canada Foundation, and St Camille Association.
  • Ruby Alba Castaño (Colombia), a human rights activist and founder of ASOCATDAME (Meta Association for Peasants, Rural Workers and Defenders of the Environment) who works to protect the rights of thousands of Colombian peasants that are subjected to persecution, forced disappearances and displacement. Ms. Castaño has nominated three organizations that advocate for the rights of the peasant and impoverished communities in Colombia: ASOCATDAME, Claretian Corporation Norman Pérez Bello (CCNPB), and National Federation of Agricultural Unions (FENSUAGRO).
  • Paul Farmer (USA), a medical anthropologist, professor at Harvard Medical School, co-founder and chief strategist of Partners In Health (PIH), an international non-profit organization that brings the benefits of modern medical science to those who need it the most. Dr. Farmer has nominated two organizations that deliver healthcare to the world’s poorest communities and build a global movement of social medicine educators and practitioners: Partners In Health and Equal Health.
  • Julienne Lusenge (Democratic Republic of the Congo), a human rights defender, co-founder of Women’s Solidarity for Inclusive Peace and Development (SOFEPADI) and Fund for Congolese Women (FFC), who has been helping the victims of wartime sexual violence for years. Ms. Lusenge has nominated three organizations that support grassroots women’s organizations, empower survivors of gender-based violence and reintegrate internally displaced persons: Fund for Congolese Women, League for Congolese Solidarity and Association of Mothers for Development and Peace.
  • Ashwaq Moharram (Yemen), a physician who provides life-saving support to the starving population of Hodeida, facing a humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of conflict and blockade. Dr. Moharram has nominated two organizations that protect the future of children and provide free healthcare services to the people affected by the ongoing conflict in Yemen: Save the Children and Doctors Without Borders.

“It is a great honor to have the opportunity to recognize these distinguished men and women from all over the world. The 2021 Aurora Humanitarians are individuals who truly believe in the basic human rights and have dedicated their lives to helping people in areas of adversity. They are also recognized for the huge impact that even one individual can have by helping thousands and, most importantly, inspiring millions at the same time,” said Lord Ara Darzi, Chair of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee.

“The outstanding accomplishments of the 2021 Aurora Humanitarians show their unyielding willingness to act in response to the needs of people around them. Aurora believes deeply in the power of humanity to improve and save lives and has come up with the concept of “Gratitude in Action” that describes the human spirit that can motivate humanitarian activism. The heroes we are honoring today are the role models the world needs now more than ever before,” noted Marguerite Barankitse, founder of Maison Shalom and REMA Hospital and the inaugural Aurora Prize Laureate.

At the event, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative also officially announced the opening of the nomination period for the 2022 Aurora Prize and encouraged everyone to put forward inspiring modern-day heroes. Earlier that day, Aurora representatives had commemorated the Armenian Genocide by attending a flower-laying ceremony at the Tsitsernakaberd memorial in Yerevan, Armenia, dedicated to the victims of the first genocide of the 20th century.  

https://hetq.am/en/article/130109

Loujain Al-Hathloul wins Europe’s Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize

April 20, 2021

The Council of Europe has given its annual human rights award to the Saudi Arabian women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul who was released last month after nearly three years in prison

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Monday 19 April 2021 awarded its human rights prize to Loujain Al-Hathloul who is the recipient of several awards, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/1a6d84c0-b494-11ea-b00d-9db077762c6c

For more on the Vaclac Havel Human Rights prize and its laureates see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/7A8B4A4A-0521-AA58-2BF0-DD1B71A25C8D.

https://www.dw.com/en/loujain-al-hathloul-wins-vaclav-havel-human-rights-prize/a-57248168

David William McBride Is Nominated for Four International Human Rights Awards

April 6, 2021

This blog has a special interest in human rights awards and their laureates (see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/02/02/digest-of-laureates-ready-this-blog-changes-orientation/)

Still, it is rare to see an item that so openly advances a candidate as in Newsfile Corp. of April 1, 2021. It states that recently, David William McBride was nominated for four international human rights awards: 2021 Distinguished Services to Humanism Award, 2021 FrontLine Defenders Award, 2021 Sydney Peace Prize, and 2021 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. These four awards have all made outstanding contributions to the development of international human rights and have a good reputation and recognition.

For the “FrontLine Defenders Award”, the “Sydney Peace Prize” and the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize (Council of Europe), see the Digest: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest

From 2014 to 2016, McBride successively provided the American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) with information about the war crimes committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, and reported the details in 2017. The following year, he was charged with five crimes related to national security, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. He was not guilty of every charge at the preliminary hearing in May 2019 and is still awaiting trial. In the same year, the “Brereton report” was released. The report found that the Australian Special Forces allegedly killed 39 unarmed prisoners and civilians in Afghanistan, and 2 of them were even tortured and killed. Severe condemnation of the incident was issued around the world. After the fact verification was announced, the Australian people and politicians began to call for the revocation of the prosecution against McBride. Previously, McBride stated that my duty is to “stand up and be counted”, and I did it. What has happened from now on is irrelevant in many ways. I did what I thought was necessary. My main enemy is not the command system, or even the police, but myself. When the reporter asked what he thought of the upcoming charges, McBride said, “They keep threatening me to go to jail. If I am afraid of going to jail, why would I become a soldier?”

The winners of the four awards will be announced around April.

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/david-william-mcbride-nominated-four-095700067.html

Nigerien President Issoufou gets 2020 Mo Ibrahim Prize

March 22, 2021

Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou, set to step down after two terms in office, was last week awarded the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. [see:https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/a4b07020-ced4-11e7-8d59-7dc11e986512 ].

The chair of the Mo Ibrahim Prize Committee, Festus Mogae, a former president of Botswana and himself a recipient of the prize, said that Issoufou had “led his people on a path of progress.” The committee noted that Issoufou had faced “severe political and economic issues.” Niger in the best of times is one of the poorest countries in the world, facing recurrent, severe drought. It has been buffeted by jihadi terrorism, a host of economic issues, and COVID-19. Unlike many other African presidents, Issoufou did not try to remain in office beyond his constitutionally mandated two terms by amending the constitution or pursuing other extralegal means. Since its inception in 2007 the Ibrahim Foundation has granted the award to only seven other presidents. On eight occasions it found no eligible candidate. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/12/mo-ibrahim-prize-2017-to-ellen-johnson-sirleaf/]

However, there is some criticism of this choice. e.g. from Sebastian Elischer, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Florida, who writes that:

During his time in office, his regime has had a heavy-handed reaction to dissent. It also hasn’t upheld the law. In 2017 students protesting for better living and studying conditions were arrested and injured; there were even some deaths. The same is true for broader protests denouncing corruption and calling for improved living conditions. Hundreds of civil society activists found themselves in prison without due process…

In addition, Amnesty International identified a recent surge in human rights violations in Niger. For instance, journalists reporting critically on the government’s war against Boko Haram or on corruption within the state bureaucracy frequently faced expulsion or arbitrary arrest. When Issoufou took office in 2011, the World Press Freedom Index ranked Niger 29th worldwide. In 2020 Niger occupies position 57. This constitutes a significant decline.

https://www.cfr.org/blog/nigers-mahamadou-issoufou-awarded-mo-ibrahim-prize-excellence-african-leadership

https://theconversation.com/why-its-a-big-surprise-that-the-african-leadership-prize-went-to-nigers-issoufou-157291

A new tool to champion human rights defenders

March 2, 2021

Pip Cook published on 2 March 2021 a piece in Geneva Solutions which is hard to ignore for me in view of my own participation in it: the Digest: “A new tool to champion human rights defenders“. [see also:https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/02/02/digest-of-laureates-ready-this-blog-changes-orientation/]

From left to right: Neri Colmenares, Abdul Aziz Muhamat, Juwairiya Mohideen, Nemonte Nenquimo and Intisar Al-Amyal. (True Heroes Films)

A new online tool has been launched to champion human rights defenders and bring greater recognition to their work. Launched this month by True Heroes Films, a Geneva-based media organisation which uses digital storytelling to raise the profile of human rights defenders around the world, the Digest of Human Rights Awards includes over 2,800 winners of 220 prestigious awards.

The Digest, while raising awareness about the work of human rights defenders, also  aims to serve as a useful tool for both the media and the human rights world to go beyond the often fleeting publicity that surrounds award ceremonies and ensure their work is not forgotten.

Hans Thoolen, co-founder of True Heroes and the Martin Ennals Award, told Geneva Solutions that the idea for the digest came out of a research project he undertook in 2013 into the value of human rights awards.

Awards help bring greater recognition to a cause, boosting an individual’s profile and granting them greater protection, be it through prize money or the support of NGOs. However, many awards remain relatively unheard of and receive very little publicity, which Thoolen said is “absolutely crucial” to their value.

Journalists are incorporated into the broad human rights movement. Without publicity, human rights defenders would be working mostly for nothing,” said Thoolen. “They need public attention for their cause and what they are trying to change. Without it, nobody would know what they are doing.

In fact, the Digest reveals journalists make up the largest professional group of award recipients, with more than 400 laureates from the media. The database also provides images of the laureates and biographies of their life and work, as well as details of the awards themselves.

Human rights awards generally try to achieve three main objectives,” explained Thoolen. “One is recognition at a psychological level, which should not be underestimated. Many human rights defenders are not very popular in their own society, sometimes not even within their own family, so when they get recognition that can be a very important boost to their mental health.

The value of awards also lies in “concrete support”, be it in the form of prize money or training opportunities, or the chance to connect with others working in the same field. They also provide protection for the laureates, which is another reason publicity is essential – to make it known that the world is watching. Although this publicity can bring with it some risks, Thoolen explains that his long career working in the human rights world has shown him that these are outweighed by the benefits.

The feedback we get from lawyers is always the same: the [human rights defenders] have already taken enormous risks by going public. They are not afraid, and clearly the publicity helps them.

Showcasing the work of thousands of people from all different backgrounds, championing everything from women’s rights to freedom of speech, Thoolen also hopes the Digest will serve as a “hall of fame” for role models to inspire the next generation of human rights defenders.

Most people get into human rights work when they’re hit by something, but usually it’s not by reading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said Thoolen. “What inspires people is seeing and hearing a person: a human rights defender. They are the entry point into the much broader human rights movement.

The piece then gives some recent winners of prestigious human rights awards featured in the Digest:

Abdul Aziz Muhamat – Martin Ennals Award, 2019. 

Juwairiya Mohideen – The Front Line Defenders Award, 2020. 

Nemonte Nenquimo – Goldman Environment Award, 2020.

Mohammad Mosaed – International Press Freedom Awards and Deutsche Welle’s Freedom of Speech, 2020. . 

Rugiati Turay – Theodor Haecker Prize, 2020. 

Intisar Al-Amyal – Per Anger Prize, 2020. 

Zayed Award for Human Fraternity to Latifa ibn Ziaten and UN’s Antonio Guterres.

February 22, 2021

Guterres said he considers the award to be recognition of the work of the UN “to advance peace and human dignity every day and everywhere.” (AFP/File Photo)
French-Moroccan activist Latifa ibn Ziaten was a co-recipients of the this year’s Zayed Award for Human Fraternity, along with UN's Antonio Guterres. (Supplied)

Arab News of 4 February 2021 writes about the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity 2021 which recognises French-Moroccan activist Latifa ibn Ziaten and Antonio Guterres.

The Zayed Award recognizes the institutions and community of people who are spreading the work of human fraternity and coexistence around the world. It was inspired by the Document on Human Fraternity which was signed by His Eminence the Grand Imam Dr. Ahmed El-Tayeb and His Holiness Pope Francis on February 4, 2019 in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

The Document on Human Fraternity, alongside the inspiration of the humanitarian actions and values of the UAE’s founder, the late Sheikh Zayed, is the foundational doctrine that informs the criteria for nominees of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity (ZAHF). The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity (HCHF) is a non-governmental body, based in Abu Dhabi, and the architect of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity. Obviously not the most appropriate place for human rights award, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/074ACCD4-A327-4A21-B056-440C4C378A1A and also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/05/18/uae-emirates-human-rights-defender-nasser-bin-ghaith-ngos-censorship/

HCHF’s mission is to act on the aspirations outlined in the Document on Human Fraternity by meeting with religious leaders, heads of international organizations, and others across the world, to support and spread the values of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence. In addition, the committee provides counsel on a variety of initiatives, including the Abrahamic Family House, which is being built in Abu Dhabi. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/23/emirates-at-the-upr-in-geneva-two-sides-of-the-same-medal/y.

Guterres praised fellow recipient Ibn Ziaten for “her dedicated efforts to support young people and promote mutual understanding, arising out of immense personal tragedy, (that has) won admirers at home and beyond.”[see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/08/us-state-department-international-women-of-courage-awards-2016-yulan/
Ibn Ziaten’s son, Imad, was the first person to die at the hands of terrorist Mohamed Merah during a series of shootings in the cities of Toulouse and Montauban in southwestern France between March 11 and 22, 2012. When Ibn Ziaten visited Les Izards in Toulouse, where the Merah had lived, to find out more about the man who took her son’s life she was shocked to find young people there hailing the killer as a hero of Islam. “I had the impression they were killing my son all over again,” she said at the time. This motivated her to found the Imad ibn Ziaten Youth Association for Peace to help young people in deprived areas and promote interreligious dialogue.
Guterres reiterated that discrimination, racism and extremist violence continue to surge around the globe, fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic recession, a climate emergency and continuing threats to peace and security. Unity is more important now than ever, he added. Guterres said he will donate the $500,000 prize that accompanies the award to the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees to support its work with “the most vulnerable members of the human family: the forcibly displaced.”

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1803496/world

Speculating on the Nobel Peace Prize 2021

February 4, 2021

Speculating about the Nobel Peace Prize is a sport that keeps some media busy most of the year.

Although thousands of people, from members of parliaments worldwide to former winners, are eligible to propose candidates (see list in link), it is the group of Norwegian parliamentarians that has nominated the eventual laureate every year since 2014 (with the exception of 2019), according to Henrik Urdal, Director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo. And for this year Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, the World Health Organization and climate campaigner Greta Thunberg are among those nominated by backed by Norwegian lawmakers.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which decides who wins the award, does not comment on nominations, keeping secret for 50 years the names of nominators and unsuccessful nominees. But the nominators themselves can choose to reveal their choice and often do.

On 31 January 2021 Gwladys Fouche and Nora Buli started off the guessing season by reporting that, according to a Reuters survey of Norwegian lawmakers, nominees include Thunberg, Navalny, the WHO and its COVAX programme to secure fair access to COVID-19 vaccines for poor countries.

Other names are Belarusian activists Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Maria Kolesnikova and Veronika Tsepkalo for their “fight for a fair election and inspiration for peaceful resistance”, one nominator, Geir Sigbjoern Toskedal, said. Another, Jette Christensen, also named the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a human rights group, and IUSTITIA, a group of Polish judges defending civil rights. “My nomination this year is … for the fight to preserve democracy as a form of government in Europe,” Christensen said.

Freedom of information is a recurring theme with nominees including the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists; former Charlie Hebdo journalist Zineb el Rhazoui; news website Hong Kong Free Press, the U.S.-based International Fact-Checking Network and Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF). Also mentioned are: the Black Lives Matter movement and Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate who has become a leading voting rights advocate.

Other nominees include former U.S. President Donald Trump (by Jaak Madison, a member of the right-wing populist EKRE party) as well as Kushner and Berkowitz for negotiating deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco), .

Also on the list are NATO and again the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) as well as Aminatou Haidar, for her peaceful campaigning towards an independent Western Sahara, the International Space Station and the International Scout Movement.

https://www.nobelprize.org/nomination/peace/

https://www.kcrg.com/2021/02/02/explainer-how-nobel-peace-prize-nominations-come-about/

https://www.euronews.com/2021/02/01/donald-trump-estonian-mep-jaak-madison-nominates-ex-us-president-for-nobel-peace-prize

Profile of Behrouz Boochani who Just Wanted to Be Free

August 5, 2020

The New York Times Magazine of 4 august features a long, substantial and richly illustrated story by Megan K. Stack – an author and a journalist- on Behrouz Boochani the Iranian refugee rescued from Australia’s off shore camps [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/01/behrouz-boochani-gives-interview-in-new-zealand-finally-out-of-manus-island/].

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/30/flight-from-manus-the-inside-story-of-an-exceptional-case/

Here follow some long excerpts that give you a flavour of a profile worth reading in full:

Behrouz Boochani’s book, “No Friend but the Mountains,” won the prestigious Victorian Prize for Literature in 2019 while he was still detained on Manus Island.
Behrouz Boochani’s book, “No Friend but the Mountains,” won the prestigious Victorian Prize for Literature in 2019 while he was still detained on Manus Island.Credit…Birgit Krippner for The New York Times

He fled Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. He exposed Australia’s offshore detention camps — from the inside. He survived, stateless, for seven years. What’s next?

..The cellphone was everything on Manus. Boochani and the other detainees hoarded their cigarettes for weeks to barter for phones with the detention center’s local employees. Once acquired, the phones had to be hidden from the guards, who conducted surprise dawn inspections to hunt for contraband. Boochani’s phone was confiscated twice; each time, there was no recourse but to start over again, one sacrificed smoke at a time.

The phones quickly became the only tool successful at breaking through the shroud of secrecy that Australia tried to throw over the migrants’ detention. Locked up in the disused rooms of the old naval base, the asylum seekers were called by serial numbers instead of names. Communications were tightly restricted. Under Australian law, workers who spoke publicly about what they saw or heard at the detention sites faced up to two years in prison. But official documents and accounts from survivors and whistle blowers gradually leaked out, along with accusations of sexual and physical abuse. Asylum seekers sought solace in self-harm as their mental and physical health crumbled under the strain of prolonged and uncertain detention.

Boochani wrote “No Friend but the Mountains” in Persian, sending texts of ideas and descriptive fragments to nonexistent WhatsApp numbers that he used to organize his thoughts. Once satisfied with a passage, he sent it to Moones Mansoubi, a translator in Sydney, who organized the material into chapters before sending it along to Omid Tofighian, an Iranian-Australian philosophy professor. Slowly, haltingly, Boochani and Tofighian texted back and forth about how best to translate and arrange the passages into a draft. Together they blended poetry and prose into a genre Tofighian calls “horrific surrealism.”

First-person narratives that paint historical events from the perspective of the persecuted have proven powerful and enduring. These stories are subversive; the images slip into a reader’s mind and create empathy where there was little before. They can permanently alter the way history is recorded and understood.

Boochani’s book challenges readers to acknowledge that we are living in the age of camps. The camps lie scattered throughout the Middle East, cluster on Greek islands and stretch like an ugly tattoo along the U.S.-Mexican border. Camps sprawl through Bangladesh, Chad and Colombia. People are suspended in a stateless and extralegal limbo on the tiny Pacific island nation Nauru, in Guantánamo and in the Syrian town of al-Hawl. At no time since humans first drew borders have there been more migrants and refugees than today. Countless individual lives weave into a collective panorama of displacement and statelessness and detention. These truncated journeys are a defining experience of our times.

As for Boochani, he refuses to cede the story of his hardships to third-party observers. He criticizes journalists who depict refugees as faceless victims. He bristles at perceived condescension from academics or activists who benefit from what he describes as an industry built around the plight of refugees. When Kristina Keneally, a prominent center-left senator in Australia, sent a tweet supporting Boochani, he tweeted in anger: “Such a rediclilius [sic] and unacceptable statement by Labor Party. You exiled me to Manus and you have supported this exile policy for years…

The miseries of offshore detention were meant to pressure migrants to abandon their asylum claims so they could legally be sent back whence they came and — more crucial — to create a spectacle so chilling that “boat people” would stop coming to Australia altogether. That was the first and last point of this byzantine enterprise.

…After six months of misery and unanswered questions, immigration officials appeared at the camp and warned asylum seekers that they would be stuck in Manus for a long time yet. Enraged detainees rioted that night, lunging at the guards and hurling chairs. Local police and Manus residents rushed into the compound to quell the unrest. Dozens of detainees were injured, some suffering broken bones and severe lacerations. One man lost an eye; another’s throat was slashed, reportedly by a guard. Barati, Boochani’s close friend, was viciously attacked by a group that included an employee of the Salvation Army, which had a $50 million contract from the Australian government to provide counseling to the asylum seekers. The assailants killed Barati by dropping a heavy rock onto his head. He was the first detainee to die on Manus.

In 2019, most of the asylum seekers were moved to motels in Port Moresby because, it seemed, nobody knew what else to do with them.

The first time I saw Boochani, he was still being detained on Manus Island. It was a chilly, wind-scraped morning in 2019. Boochani was discussing his book via video link at the annual writers festival in Byron Bay, Australia. When his face flickered onto the screen, the overflowing crowd that jammed the seaside auditorium gasped and burst into applause. Boochani looked haggard and detached; dangling hair framed his craggy features. “Oh, God,” said a woman near me. “He looks so alone.”…

Peter Dutton, Australia’s home affairs minister, frequently says the asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea include men “of bad character” — “Labour’s mess” that he has been forced to “clean up.” Pauline Hanson, a right-wing populist senator, called the men “rapists” on the floor of Parliament this past winter. “These people are thugs,” she said. “They don’t belong here in Australia.”..

All told, Australia has locked up thousands of desperate people, including children, in de facto prisons on Manus and Nauru. The detentions have been harsh but effective, officials say: The flow of boats slowed and eventually stopped. Asylum seekers are still stuck on Nauru; until last year, they included children. The Australian government recently spent about $130 million to reopen the detention center on Christmas Island — despite the lack of new arrivals to lock up. In other words, the policy is still unapologetically intact, ready and waiting for any boats that make it to Australian waters.

It was a brilliant January day in Christchurch, New Zealand. Screeching gulls wheeled in off the Pacific; swollen roses bobbed in the breeze. In the hydrangea-fringed garden of a spare, tidy house, Boochani sat smoking. He couldn’t smoke inside because the house wasn’t exactly his; it was on loan from the University of Canterbury. Boochani’s neighborhood looked as if Beatrix Potter had painted it in watercolors: prim, ivy-laced cottages and tidy beds of hollyhocks and lavender. It was nice, Boochani conceded. Too nice, sometimes. “It’s too much, you know?” he said. “It’s too much peace and too much beauty. It’s hard to deal with this. It’s like you go from a very cold place to a very hot place.”

During these early and disorienting weeks, Boochani got word that it was finally time to begin the final steps to resettle in the United States. He’d been awaiting this news for months, but when his chance came, he backed out. Reports of tensions between the U.S. and Iran, immigration crackdowns and political tumult had eroded his eagerness. “I don’t feel safe in America now,” he said simply. “I don’t mean that someone would kill me. But I don’t trust the American system. It’s like chaos there now.”

Instead, Boochani took a bold gamble: He applied for asylum in New Zealand. He accepted a fellowship with the university’s Ngai Tahu Research Center, which specializes in Maori and Indigenous studies — a nod to his Kurdish identity — although the post would remain a secret while his application to stay in New Zealand was pending. Neither his whereabouts nor his plans were public knowledge. Conservative politicians in both New Zealand and Australia were calling for Boochani to be turned out. What would he do then, where would he go? He shrugged; he didn’t answer; instead, he began to roll another cigarette. ..

..This is the complication and the delicacy of Boochani: His most famous work was derived from the considerable suffering he endured at the hands of the state. He is proud, even cocky at times. And yet this pride must wrestle with the dehumanization he has endured. His existence was controlled by a hostile bureaucracy for years; now his days were arranged by benevolent well-wishers.

Then, on July 23, Boochani’s birthday, he finally got word from his lawyer: His application had been accepted. Boochani could stay in New Zealand. He was free. On the phone, he let out a wild and incredulous laugh. Of course! When else? It had been his birthday, too, the day he was lifted from the sea and taken into Australian custody. Hearing him laugh like that, I remembered one of his stories: When he was born, his parents asked a visiting cousin who knew how to read to choose a name for the baby. The cousin opened a book and poked his finger onto the page at random, striking the word “Behrouz” — Farsi for “fortunate.” Literally, “good day.”

Boochani rode his bike from his house to the sea. He looked at the expanse of ocean, these waters that had almost killed him, the sea he suspected of absconding with years of his life, the waves that crashed now on the mineral grains of this new land he called home. He looked at the ocean, at all of that past and all of that future, the churn of time and destiny, and he smoked a cigarette. Just one cigarette. One cigarette and the sea in his eyes. And then he rode home again.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/04/magazine/behrouz-boochani-australia.html?referringSource=articleShare

Mandela Prize 2020 awarded to Greek and Guinean humanitarians

July 22, 2020

Home

UN Photo/Ariana LindquistUnveiling Ceremony of Nelson Mandela Statue from South Africa 17 July 2020

The 2020 Nelson Mandela Prize {SEE: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/nelson-mandela-prize-un] is awarded every five years and recognizes those who dedicate their lives to the service of humanity, will go to Marianna Vardinoyannis, of Greece, and Doctor Morissana Kouyaté, of Guinea, it was announced on Friday.

United Nations Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, female laureate of the 2020 United Nations Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize.

The President of the General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, made the announcement, and will recognize the laureates during a virtual ceremony on 20 July, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. An in-person award ceremony will take place at a later date, at UN Headquarters in New York.

Ms. Vardinoyannis is the founder and president of two foundations dedicated to children: the “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation” and “ELPIDA Friends’ Association of Children with cancer.”

She has been involved in the fight against child cancer for some 30 years and, thanks to her work, thousands of children have been cured. Notably, the ELPIDA association was instrumental in setting up the first bone marrow transplant unit in Greece, in 1999, and the country’s first oncology hospital for children, in 2010.

Her foundation also supports programmes for the medical care of refugee children and other vulnerable social groups, human rights education, programmes, and the fight against human trafficking. Ms. Vardinoyannis has been a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador since 1999.

United Nations Morissanda Kouyate, male laureate of the 2020 United Nations Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize.

As Executive Director of the Inter-African Committee on Harmful Traditional Practices (IAC), Dr. Kouyaté is a leading figure in efforts to end violence against women in Africa, including Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). He has received several international humanitarian awards for his work.

Dr. Kouyaté created IAC in 1984 in Dakar, Senegal, at a time when FGM was a highly controversial and sensitive issue for discussion. The organization aims, through education, to change attitudes towards the practice, and allow all African women and children to fully enjoy their human rights, free from the consequences of FGM, and other harmful practices. 

It is a partner organization with the UN reproductive rights agency (UNFPA), the World Health Organization (WHO), and UN childrens’ agency (UNICEF).

“I am pleased to join you to celebrate the life and achievements of Nelson Mandela – one of the greatest leaders of our time, a moral giant whose legacy continues to guide us today”, Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message to the virtual General Assembly commemoration.

Quoting Madiba Mr. Guterres said: “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest”.

Maintaining that “inequality damages everyone”, the UN chief said it was “a brake on human development and opportunities”.

“The answer lies in a New Social Contract, to ensure economic and social justice and respect for human rights”, stressed the UN chief.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/07/1068721

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/07/1068571

In memoriam Santiago Manuin, defender of Peru’s Amazon forest

July 3, 2020

Neil Giardino for ABC News reports on the passing of Santiago Manuin, one of the most celebrated defenders of Peru’s Amazon rainforest and the leader of the Awajún tribe, whose vast and besieged territory spans the country’s mountainous northern region along the Ecuador border. He died on Wednesday of COVID-19 at the age of 63.

Manuin devoted his life to defending his tribe and their ancestral land, which in recent decades had endured illegal gold mining and logging, persistent threats linked to narco-trafficking and state-sanctioned oil and gas operations….

In 2009, Manuin nearly died defending Awajún territory after he was shot eight times by Peruvian security forces. The incident, referred to as “the Bagua Massacre,” occurred when police fired on thousands of Awajún and Wampis tribespeople who were blocking a jungle highway to protest a U.S.-Peru trade agreement that would’ve opened up land in the Amazon for gas, oil and lumber extraction. More than 30, both officers and natives, died in the clash.

For the Westerner, the Indigenous person is an impediment to development because we refuse to destroy the land. That’s why they label us anti-development,” he said. “Indigenous peoples are not anti-development. We protect the forest and live for the forest. Our spirituality is tied to it. We don’t need to go to the largest churches to pray. We pray within this natural world. We live in this plenitude.”..

In 1994, Manuin won the international Reina Sofia Prize for his defense of the Amazon, and in 2014 he was awarded Peru’s National Prize for Human Rights for a life lived in service of Indigenous peoples and the rainforest..

https://www.weisradio.com/santiago-manuin-tireless-defender-of-the-amazon-rainforest-succumbs-to-covid-19/