Posts Tagged ‘awards’

Viasna, Belarusian human rights defenders group, wins OSCE’s 2020 Democracy Defender Award

March 24, 2020

 

Belarussian Human Rights CentreViasna (‘Spring’) has received the 2020 Democracy Defender Award of the OSCE. The award honours a person or group for exceptional contributions to the promotion of democracy and the defense of human rights in the spirit of Helsinki Final Act principles and other OSCE commitments. It was established in 2016 to recognize the contribution civil society makes to defending and promoting democracy. Earlier, the award was received by the Russian movement “Golos”, the Serbian non-governmental organization CRTA, and the Ukrainian activist Oleksandra Matviychuk. “Human Rights Centre Viasna receives the award this year for its mission of defending human rights in Belarus and building a just, free and democratic society for all its citizens,” the OSCE statement reads.

According to Viasna Chairman Ales Bialiatski [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/06/22/good-news-ales-bialiatski-belarus-best-known-human-rights-defender-freed-from-prison/], the award is a clear signal to the Belarusian authorities as an incentive to serious reforms in the field of human rights and a substantial improvement of the situation with the rights and freedoms of Belarusian citizens. “..The repressions against the Belarusian human rights defenders will not stop our work in support of democracy and human rights in our country. We are grateful to the OSCE member countries that nominated HRC Viasna. We believe that the courageous and persistent efforts by human rights defenders in the OSCE region, in spite of the obstacles, will help make our world a better place,” he stressed.

Active from 1996, the organisation was founded on the principle of respect for human rights, and its main goal is to contribute to the development of civil society in Belarus. HRC Viasna conducts research on the state of civil society and rule of law in Belarus, with the aim of improving implementation of human rights obligations and commitments, the OSCE notes.

http://spring96.org/en/news/96213

Viasna as Democracy Defender: Belarusian human rights watchdog wins OSCE award

2020 International Women of Courage Awards by the U.S. State Department

March 4, 2020

Today, Wednesday 4 March 2020, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo hosts the Annual International Women of Courage Awards at the U.S. Department of State to honor 12 women from around the world.  The First Lady of the United States Melania Trump will deliver remarks to recognize the accomplishments of these women. For more on this and 7 other international awards that have word COURAGE in their name, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/international-women-of-courage-award.

The 2020 announcement comes remarkably quickly on the heels of last year’s, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/18/usas-international-women-of-courage-awards-for-2019/

This year will bring the total to 146 awardees from 77 countries. U.S. diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries. The finalists are selected and approved by senior Department officials. Following the IWOC ceremony, the 12 awardees will participate in an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) visiting various cities throughout the country, before reconvening in Los Angeles for the conclusion of their program on March 16. The 2020 awardees are:

Zarifa Ghafari (Afghanistan) After successfully launching and operating a women-focused radio station, Afghanistan’s Zarifa Ghafari became mayor of Maidan Shar, in conservative Wardak province, at the age of 26.  When she showed up to start work, a male mob appeared and she was forced to flee.  Despite death threats, Ms. Ghafari came back, defying her conservative critics and their narrative that a woman is unfit to lead.  She then withstood a walkout by all of the male members of her office.  She later demonstrated ability and courage in tackling her town’s problems.  Despite fierce opposition from vested interests, she successfully launched a “Clean City, Green City” campaign that reduced littering.  Ghafari’s courage has inspired girls and women not only in her community and the wider province, but across the country.  In her capacity as a trail-blazer and door-opener for a new generation of young women, she has helped empower the women of Afghanistan.

Lucy Kocharyan (Armenia) Using her platform as a journalist, Kocharyan has championed children with mental health issues and has emerged as a leading voice in the fight against psychological, physical, and domestic violence against women and children.  Through her dedication and resolve, Kocharyan became famous for launching “Voices of Violence” in August 2018.  She has become a spokesperson on gender-based violence in Armenia and has continued to speak out despite harsh criticism – from people on the street who yell “shame” as she passes by, to parliamentarians speaking out against her and threatening her with lawsuits.  She successfully started a conversation about domestic and sexual violence that is slowly leading to some action. Gender-based violence is a pervasive problem throughout Armenia, where traditional social norms regarding masculinity, femininity, gender equality, and the division of household tasks remain rigid, making her achievements and impact all the more impressive.

Shahla Humbatova (Azerbaijan) Shahla Humbatova has worked as a defense lawyer in Azerbaijan since 2013, and is one of a handful of legal advocates who have been consistently willing to defend individuals facing punishment for exercising their fundamental freedoms.  She has bravely defended human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers, youth activists, members of the political opposition, and others.  Her example has inspired other lawyers to better advocate for their clients in politically sensitive cases, and her courage in representing LGBT clients in a conservative culture has pushed civil society further down the path to tolerance.  She is one of only two female lawyers to take these cases on in a difficult environment in which human rights lawyers have regularly been harassed and threatened in social media, suspended from practicing law, and disbarred. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/20/annual-reports-2019-azerbaijan-in-review-muted-hope-for-2020/]

Ximena Galarza (Bolivia) Ximena Galarza is a Bolivian journalist with over 25 years of experience. She has worked as a reporter, a television presenter, and news editor on some of Bolivia’s most important news channels including Red UNO, Cadena A, and TVU. Across her extensive career, Galarza has interviewed hundreds of politicians, academics, intellectuals, artists, and experts. She has also trained journalists to better inform the public of their rights and obligations. Galarza’s work has supported democracy in Bolivia and exposed corruption and violations of democratic freedoms. Since 2015, Galarza has hosted the program Jaque Mate (Check Mate) on TVU, one of Bolivia’s most prestigious news programs. In 2019, two of Galarza’s interviews impacted Bolivia’s history by demonstrating fraud in the October 20 presidential elections.  The electoral irregularities were later confirmed by an independent analysis from the Organization of American States.

Claire Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso) Claire Ouedraogo is the President of the Songmanegre Association for Women’s Development (Association féminine songmanegre pour le développement), an organization she founded that focuses on eliminating female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and promoting female empowerment through family planning education, vocational training, and micro-credit for women in the rural and underserved Center North region of Burkina Faso. She also serves as a senior advisor on the National Council to Combat Female Genital Mutilation. She is an active member of the Burkinabe Movement for Human and People’s Rights. In 2016, the prime minister of Burkina Faso nominated her as an Ambassador of Peace for her work in empowering rural women. Despite the increased threat of terrorist attacks and violent acts against civilians in Bam Province, Mrs. Ouedraogo continues her courageous work on behalf of vulnerable women threatened both by FGM/C and terrorism.

Sayragul Sauytbay (China) Sayragul Sauytbay was born in Ele Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, Xinjiang, China.  She attended medical university and worked as a doctor, teacher, education director, and headmaster. In July 2016, Sayragul and her family attempted to move to Kazakhstan but the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) confiscated her passport and prevented her from going with her husband and children.  From November 2017 to March 2018, Sayragul was forced by the CCP to teach Chinese to ethnic minority people in a detention camp.  In March 2018, Sauytbay fled to Kazakhstan to avoid being sent back to the camps, where she feared she would die.  Subsequently, Sauytbay become one of the first victims in the world to speak publicly about the CCP’s repressive campaign against Muslims, igniting a movement against these abuses.  Her testimony was among the first evidence that reached the broader international community of the CCP’s repressive policy, including both the camps and the coercive methods used against Muslim minorities.  Sayragul and her family received asylum in Sweden, where they now live.

Susanna Liew (Malaysia) Following the February 2017 abduction of her husband, Christian pastor Raymond Koh, allegedly by state agents, Susanna Liew has fought on behalf of members of religious minorities who disappeared in Malaysia under similar circumstances—including Amri Che Mat, Joshua Hilmy, and Ruth Sitepu—or who face persecution for their beliefs.  Susanna actively pursued justice for her husband and others during the Malaysian Human Rights Commission’s (SUHAKAM) 2018-2019 public inquiry into enforced disappearances and continues to push the government to investigate these cases and prosecute those responsible.  Despite police harassment and death threats, she continues to advocate for her husband and others, not because of her faith or theirs, but because of their rights as Malaysians.  Susanna and Raymond founded Hope Community in 2004, a non-profit organization that works with the poor, needy, and marginalized.  She previously served as a school principal and educator.

Amaya Coppens (Nicaragua) Coppens is one of the leaders of the 19th of April Student Movement in Nicaragua. She participated in numerous protests against the Sandinista government and the violent, repressive tactics deployed by its security forces. In September 2018, she was abducted by Nicaraguan police from her residence after participating in a peaceful protest. She was released in June and continued to speak out against the regime in Nicaragua. She had the opportunity to repatriate to Belgium during her first captivity, but refused. On November 14, Coppens was imprisoned again when she and 12 other activists attempted to bring water to mothers of political prisoners on hunger strike. She and other political prisoners were released by the regime on December 30, 2019.

Jalila Haider (Pakistan) Known as the Iron Lady of Balochistan, Jalila Haider is a human rights attorney and founder of “We the Humans – Pakistan”, a non-profit organization to lift local communities by strengthening opportunities for vulnerable women and children. She specializes in defending women’s rights and provides free counseling and legal services to poverty-affected women. The first female attorney of her Hazara community, Haider led a peaceful hunger strike to recognize the right to life for the Hazara following a series of targeted attacks. Ms. Haider has taken up the cause of many other vulnerable communities. As Balochistan’s President of the Women Democratic Front and Balochistan’s branch of the Aurat (Woman’s) March, she fought against violence against women in public spaces, at work, and at home.

Amina Khoulani (Syria) Khoulani is a survivor of the Assad regime’s detention and torture centers, which have arbitrarily detained over 140,000 Syrians, and has dedicated her life to helping the families of forcibly disappeared Syrians.   A long-time civil society activist, she fled Syria in 2014 after her release from prison. She was imprisoned for six months for “peaceful activism” and her husband detained for two and a half years at the notorious Sadnaya Prison. They survived, but her three brothers died while in regime custody.  From this devastating experience, Khoulani rededicated her life to seeking information and justice for the families of the disappeared. She is a founding member of “Families for Freedom”, a women-led movement launched in 2017 by families who’s loved ones have been detained and disappeared in Syria. Forced from her home and country, living under constant threat as a refugee without government representation, she continues to advocate for human rights, democracy, and peace in Syria.

Yasmin al Qadhi (Yemen) After obtaining her journalism degree, Yasmin Al-Qadhi was one of the first women to write articles for local newspapers during the Arab Spring pro-democracy protests in Sanaa’a.  When the civil war broke out in Yemen in 2015, Yasmine and her sister Entisar established the Marib Girls Foundation.  Through the foundation, she works with senior army officials to combat child recruitment and obtained the military’s commitment to release any child recruited or detained.  She fostered support for women displaced by the conflict by coordinating with the local and international community.  She also raised awareness by co-producing a film about the negative effects of displacement on women and children. Yasmine still resides in Yemen, a tribal society where women are discouraged from working in public spaces. She is working to change social norms and has become a role model in her society.  Both at home and abroad, she encourages women’s empowerment and meaningful participation in civil society and the UN-led peace process.

Dr. Rita Nyampinga (Zimbabwe) Rita Nyampinga has been a human rights defender for more than 35 years, fighting for gender equality in the workplace since she joined a trade union in 1983.  She is also a trained mediator, and a mentor for girls and young women in leadership.  Her experiences during detention led her to form the Female Prisoners Support Trust to support women and children in detention and raise awareness of the appalling conditions they face. Dr. Nyampinga continues to serve on several boards including Women Coalition of Zimbabwe, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Women Academy on Political Leadership Excellence, and Women AIDS Support Network.  Her goal is to see a world that protects and respects the rights of prisoners through a just and fair legal system that is nondiscriminatory based on gender.  In 2010 she became the Social and Economic Justice Ambassador for Zimbabwe’s Coalition on Debt and Development.  Dr. Nyampinga won the Female Human Rights Activist of the Year in 2014 from Alpha Media House.

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2020 International Women of Courage Award Recipients Announced

In memoriam Thich Quang Do, dissident monk in Vietnam

February 25, 2020

AFP reported on 23 February 2020 that Thich Quang Do, a dissident Buddhist monk who has effectively been under house arrest since 2003 has died at the age of 93. Head of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, the vocal patriarch was born in 1928 in Thai Binh province and spent most of his life advocating for religious freedom and human rights in communist-run Vietnam. His staunch activism landed him under what was effectively house arrest in 2003 in Ho Chi Minh City, where he was under constant surveillance. Do died on Saturday night 22 February at Tu Hieu pagoda, UBCV announced on Sunday morning. According to his will signed on April 2019, Do requested a “simple funeral, not more than three days.” “After the cremation, my ashes will be scattered at sea,” said the statement quoting his will.

Do has long been a thorn on the side for communist-run Vietnam, and he has been nominated multiple times for the Nobel Peace Prize for his vocal advocacy for democracy. In 2001, he wrote an “Appeal for Democracy” and also called on northern and southern dissidents to drop their cultural differences and unite in 2005. He received Norway’s Rafto human rights award the following year for “his personal courage and perseverance through three decades of peaceful opposition against the communist regime in Vietnam.” He also won a Hellmann/Hammett grant in 2001 and the Homo Homini award in 2002.

The UBVC has been banned since the early 1980s, when it refused to join the state-sanctioned Vietnam Buddhist Church.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/02/23/asia-pacific/vietnamese-dissident-monk-nobel-dies/#.XlUxREPgpTY

German opera comes to its senses and rescinds award ceremony for General Sisi

February 5, 2020

The Semper Opera House in Dresden, Germany (AFP
The Middle East Eye correspondent reported on 4 February 2020 that an annual awards ceremony at the Semper Opera House in Germany’s Dresden has been cancelled after the decision to grant Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi a presitigious prize created a public relations crisis.

Sisi, the general-turned-president who is a chief architect of serious human rights violations [for just a few examples, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/egypt/], was set to receive the Order of St George at the Semper Opera Ball on Friday. It is awarded to “those who have, like St. George, been a force for good in the world, despite all opposition – those who swim against the current.

Though the Semper Opera Ball will go ahead, hosting 2,500 guests, its PR agency Zastrow + Zastrow told Middle East Eye that the award ceremony traditionally accompanying it has been scrapped. Sisi, however, has already been handed the prize. A delegation from the Opera Ball Association, led by its director Hans-Joachim Frey, visited Cairo on 26 January and presented the award to Sisi at the presidential palace. News about the award quickly sparked a backlash against the event and its organisers.

At the time, Frey defended the award as a token of appreciation for what he described as Sisi’s role in restoring stability and peace to Egypt and Africa. But that characterisation has been denounced by human rights defenders. On Tuesday, Vanessa Ullrich, an expert at Amnesty International Germany, told MEE that those granting Sisi an award have a “responsibility to carefully consider who is the right person to honour in public and who is being called an outstanding bridge-builder and peacemaker”.

MDR, the main broadcaster of the event, condemned the award as “wrong”, saying the media organisation had no influence on the decision. The network’s entertainment chief, Peter Dreckmann, promised his team would not broadcast any part of the event that features Sisi’s award.

Multiple celebrities who had been invited to the ball have also distanced themselves from the event, in the aftermath of what German media described as a “scandal”. The latest were German billionaire Dietmar Hopp and former Bayern FC president Uli Hoeness.

Hopp, who was due to be awarded the same medal as Sisi, said on Tuesday he has turned down the award. Hoeness, who had been chosen to present the award to Hopp, has also followed suit, according to the German press agency DPA. The gala’s main host, prominent TV anchor Judith Rakers, announced on Wednesday she was pulling out altogether, complaining the Semper Opera Ball had been turned into a political event. Following Rakers’ withdrawal, her nominated replacement Mareile Hoppner also announced her rejection of the role. She cited the “very justified criticism of the selection of a prize winner”.

In response to the outcry, Frey apologised for the award. “We are aware of the irritation that has arisen and we sincerely regret it,” he said in a statement. “We would like to apologise for the award ceremony and distance ourselves from it. The award ceremony was a mistake.” Frey also said the award will not be part of the Semper Opera Ball programme, “in word or picture”.

Despite Frey’s apology, public figures have continued to pull out of the event. Dresden’s mayor was among those who denounced the honour.  “It is inconceivable for me how this honour has come about and which criteria were followed,” Mayor Dirk Hilbert said. “I am reserving the right to decide whether I will appear officially in the programme as I have done before, and whether I will take part in the ball with my guests.

Still, It was not immediately clear whether the award will be reversed. Sisi is not attending the gala.

[ The Award Committee seems to have problems in slecting winners anyway: In 2009, the Order of St George was controversially awarded to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Three years ago it was handed to Saudi Arabia’s Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Salman].

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/german-opera-crisis-over-sisi-award

Malala Yousafzai, a lot more awards than the UN thinks

January 13, 2020

On 27 Pakistani human rights defender Malala Yousafzai has been declared as “the most famous teenager in the world” by the United Nations in the ‘Decade in Review‘ report of the UN. In recognition of her efforts for children’s rights which started before she was shot in the head by Taliban militants, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. According to the UN review reportThe attack made waves around the world and was widely condemned. On Human Rights Day that year, a special tribute to Malala was held at the Paris headquarters of UNESCO, pushing for action to ensure every girl’s right to go to school, and to advance girls’ education as an urgent priority,”.

Malala’s activism and profile have only grown since the assassination attempt. She won several high-profile awards, including the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize (alongside Indian social reformer Kailash Satyarthi), and became a UN Messenger of Peace in 2017, with a special focus on girls’ education,” the report added. Recently the 22-year-old was also chosen by Teen Vogue as its cover person for its last issue of the decade.

Just to make sure the record is correct, Malala has in fact received at least the following 10 awards:

2013   Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards

2013   Index on Censorship Awards

2013   Simone de Beauvoir Prize

2013   Tipperary Peace Prize

2013   Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

2013   Ambassador of Conscience Award

2013   Anna Politkovskaya Award

2014   Franklin Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award

2014   Nobel Peace Prize

2014   Liberty Medal

https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/12/1053481

 

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai declared as “the most famous teenager in the world”: UN

Al-Haq named 2019 recipient of Human Rights and Business Award

November 27, 2019

On 26 November 2019 in Geneva, at the annual United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights, the Human Rights and Business Award Foundation named Al-Haq as recipient of the 2019 Human Rights and Business Award.  An independent Palestinian organization based in Ramallah (West Bank), Al-Haq “Law in the Service of Man” was founded in 1979 “to protect and promote human rights and the rule of law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”.  Al-Haq documents and monitors violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in Occupied Palestinian Territory and works to stop violations against Palestinians whether by Israel, by the Palestinian Authority, or by others including companies.

For more on the award, started in 2018, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/human-rights-and-business-award

In recent years Al-Haq has done ground-breaking work drawing attention to how certain companies operating in Occupied Palestinian Territory, including firms doing business with or in Israeli settlements, are involved in human rights abuses and breaches of international humanitarian law, notably the Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Board members of the Human Rights and Business Award Foundation – Christopher Avery, Regan Ralph and Valeria Scorza – said in a joint statement today: “Al-Haq does exceptional work in difficult circumstances, using international law as the basis of its research and advocacy.  It is encouraging that an increasing number of human rights defenders in the Middle East are giving attention to the behavior of companies – Al-Haq is a recognized leader in this development.”

The foundation’s Advisory Network members who nominated Al-Haq for the award praised the organization for:

  • its professionalism, meticulous research and resolute advocacy;
  • its wide network of field researchers in communities across Occupied Palestinian Territory who closely monitor business activities and their impact on people;
  • its contributions to the treaty on business and human rights being drafted at the UN; and
  • its capacity-building activities – helping other NGOs in the Middle East develop their work on human rights concerns relating to business.

Al-Haq has previously received awards for its work, including:

1989   Carter-Menil Human Rights Prize

1990   Reebok Human Rights Award

2009   Geuzenpenning

2011   PL Foundation Prize (Poul Lauritzen Award)

2018   Prix des droits de l’homme de la Republique Francaise

Al-Haq and its staff have been targeted for their human rights work.  The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders [Observatory] has repeatedly raised concerns about attacks and threats against Al-Haq, including multiple death threats against Al-Haq’s General Director Shawan Jabarin and against its representative before the International Criminal Court.  In July 2019 the Observatory issued an urgent appeal after 4IL – the official site of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs – published an article accusing Shawan Jabarin of “terrorism”, which led to death threats against him on its public platforms.  “4IL platform’s online visitors launched into an incitement to violence and hate speech against Al-Haq, including calling for Mr. Shawan Jabarin’s killing.  These comments were not filtered nor regulated by 4IL moderators.”  The Observatory has also called attention to cyber-attacks against Al-Haq; the hacking of Al-Haq staff e-mail, land-line phones and mobile phones; and a smear campaign sending to Al-Haq’s European donors false allegations against the organization, allegations purported to have been from Ernst & Young and an alleged official of the Palestinian Authority (PA) – the firm and the PA confirmed that these allegations were false and unfounded.  It should be noted that Shawan Jabarin was banned from international travel by Israel between 2006 and 2012. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2011/11/30/israel-refuses-to-let-hrd-shawan-jabarin-travel-to-receive-award-in-denmark/]

Al-Haq’s research and advocacy on concerns about business involvement in abuses of human rights and breaches of humanitarian law, listed on its website particularly in this section, has included:

  • Al-Haq has called on companies to pull out of the Jerusalem Light Rail project insofar as it runs through Occupied Palestinian Territory, connects Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land, fragments Palestinian land, and restricts free movement of Palestinians. For example, see Al-Haq’s Feb 2019 and May 2019 statements about Canadian company Bombardier.  Companies that withdrew from bidding for the Light Rail project include Bombardier, French firms Alstom and Systra, German firm Siemens, and Australian firm Macquarie.  In 2012, the UN Human Rights Council had expressed its “grave concern” at “The Israeli decision to establish and operate a tramway between West Jerusalem and the Israeli settlement of Pisgat Zeev, which is in clear violation of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions” (Resolution 19/17, paragraph 4e).
  • A 2019 submission to the UN working group developing a draft treaty on business and human rights, and continued advocacy and analysis in that regard.
  • A 2019 submission to the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee in support of a treaty on the right to development.
  • Raising concerns in a 2019 statement about Airbnb and a 2019 letter to Booking.com, that by listing properties in Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory, these firms are transgressing international law.
  • 2018 advocacy and research on Ireland’s Control of Economic Activities (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018, to prohibit the import of settlement products and services to Ireland.
  • Al-Haq’s advocacy, including a 2018 joint briefing paper, calling for corporate accountability in situations of armed conflict to be included in the International Law Commission’s (ILC’s) draft principles on the protection of the environment. The principles adopted by the ILC in 2019 did include such a principle.
  • A 2018 joint communication to the International Criminal Court about the alleged pillage of Palestinian natural resources by private actors including Israeli and multinational corporations.
  • A 2018 letter to Honda Motor Co., highlighting Honda’s complicity (through its Israeli affiliate Mayer) in violations of international humanitarian law perpetrated in Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory. Honda failed to respond to these concerns when invited to do so by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.
  • Raising concerns in 2018 about Chinese company Hubey Pengdun Group, in relation to its partnership with a winery based in an Israeli settlement in Occupied Palestinian Territory: “Grapewashing the Occupation: The Case of the Chinese Hubey Pengdun Group”.
  • Responding to German multinational HeidelbergCement in 2017 about its quarries in Occupied Palestinian Territory, expropriating natural resources in contravention of international law. In June 2015 Norway’s largest pension fund KLP had excluded HeidelbergCement from its investment portfolio, due to its operations in the occupied West Bank.
  • A 2015 letter calling on the Dutch Government to prevent the export of dogs by Dutch firms to the Israeli security forces, given their use to attack and intimidate Palestinian civilians. The letter includes links to videos of dogs attacking a 53-year old woman and a 20-year-old boy.
  • A 2013 report on the discriminatory appropriation of water in the occupied West Bank (for sale to Israeli settlers) by Mekorot, the national water company of Israel: “Water For One People Only: Discriminatory Access and ‘Water-Apartheid’ in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territory]”.

Al-Haq

2019 Right Livelihood Awards programme

November 24, 2019

2019 Right Livelihood Award to be Presented in Stockholm 4 December

The Laureates of this year’s Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’, will be celebrated during a 10-day long programme in Germany, Switzerland and Sweden from 25 November – 4 December. The Award Presentation in Stockholm also marks the 40th Anniversary of the Right Livelihood Award, established in 1980. See: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/right-livelihood-award.

For the 2019 Laureates see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/26/right-livelihood-award-2019-lauds-practical-visionaries/

The 40th Right Livelihood Award Presentation will take place on 4 December, 19.30-21.15 (CET) at Cirkus in Stockholm and is open to the public. Everyone is invited to join an inspiring evening together with 2019 Laureates and world-renowned artists such as José González. Also, on stage, journalist Amy Goodman (2008 Laureate) will moderate a conversation with whistleblower Edward Snowden (2014 Laureate) who is joining via link from Moscow.

The Award Presentation will be livestreamed on rightlivelihood.org.

2019 Laureate Greta Thunberg is currently crossing the Atlantic Ocean to participate in the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP25, in Spain. Thunberg will not attend the Award Presentation in Stockholm and will instead be represented on stage by activists from Fridays For Future Sweden. Thunberg’s fellow Laureate Guo Jianmei will also not be able to attend the Award Presentation in person. Guo has stated: “The Right Livelihood Award recognises and acknowledges the efforts of my team and me to uphold women’s rights and the rule of law in China. This award serves as an encouragement and motivation.”

The 2019 Award programme covers 10 days of events and high-level meetings for Laureates in Berlin, Zurich, Geneva and Stockholm. For further details, please see below.

Berlin

Tuesday, 26 November, 18:00-19:45 CET
Conversation with Aminatou Haidar (Western Sahara) at the Nordic Embassies in Berlin. For press accreditation, please contact: presse@rightlivelihood.org.

Zurich

Wednesday, 27 November, 18:30-20:00 CET

The 12th Right Livelihood Award Lecture with Aminatou Haidar at the University of Zurich. Please register online via zurich.rightlivelihoodaward.org.

Geneva

Thursday, 28 November, 18:00-19:45 CET

Celebration of the 2019 Laureates at Maison de la Paix in Geneva. Please register online via The Graduate Institute Geneva.

Stockholm

Sunday, 1 December, 15:00-16:30 CET

Join a conversation with Aminatou Haidar about her nonviolent activism in pursuit of justice and self-determination for the people of Western Sahara. Pre-registration not needed. Medelhavsmuseet, Fredsgatan 2.

Tuesday, 3 December, 13:30-15:00 CET
Seminar at the Swedish Parliament with Aminatou Haidar and Davi Kopenawa. For press accreditation, please reach out to communications@rightlivelihood.org.

Wednesday, 4 December, 19:30-21:15 CET
The 40th Award Presentation at Cirkus in Stockholm with special guests, including Edward Snowden, and world-renowned artists. Buy tickets online or reach out to communications@rightlivelihood.org for press accreditation.

2019 Right Livelihood Award to be Presented in Stockholm 4 December

The pen mightier than the sword: award courageous writers

November 19, 2019

On 18 November 2019 Emma Frost wrote in the Boar a piece extolling writing as an act of courage. She refers to courageous laureates and concludes that “unfortunately, the need for such awards merely confirms the continual existence of persecution, state-sponsored violence and oppression in our world”. THF’s digest lists more than 40 international awards under the theme freedom of expression: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest.

Befeqadu Hailu is an Ethiopian writer, blogger, and human rights activist who recently was awarded the 2019 PEN Pinter Prize for International Writer of Courage. Before achieving this prestigious title, Befeqadu had been imprisoned, brutalised, dehumanised and labelled a ‘terrorist’ by his own government for exercising what should be a basic human right: freedom of speech. …However, Befeqadu isn’t the only writer who has faced such injustice. Instead, he is one of thousands of courageous individuals who dare to speak and write about the truth of their society, and who are consequently punished for doing so. Many readers will recognise the story of Malala Yousafzai, a girl from Pakistan who was almost assassinated by the Taliban in 2012 for her blog posts to BBC Urdu about life under the terrorist organisation and her campaigning for female education. She was only 15 years old when she took that famous bullet to her head.

Female author Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in 1982 in Iran for campaigning for civil and female rights. She used her time in prison as an inspiration for her novel The Secret Letters From X To A, a beautifully written book that ponders the responsibility of publishing an individual’s truth in the face of personal danger for doing so. More recently, Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb in 2017,as a consequence for her dedication to exposing the corruption of Maltese politicians through her blog, ‘Running Commentary’.

These examples are testaments to the importance of writing. Without the written records of their struggle and their defiance, the the courage of brave individuals would remain unheard and we would remain in ignorance of their plight. In a world where it is safer not to write about injustice, writers make a valiant choice every day to speak out, knowing the risk of exile, imprisonment, or even death. The former 2015 PEN Pinter award winner Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger for his website ‘Free Saudi Liberals’ and activist for greater human rights in Saudi Arabia, is currently imprisoned to this very day and his exact whereabouts are unknown.

The significance of awards such as the PEN Pinter Prize for International Writer of Courage cannot be exaggerated. They validate the heroic and life-threatening efforts by writers to create a better world and convey to those who are imprisoned for their literature that they are seen, they are heard, and that they won’t be abandoned. The Civil Courage Prize is another such human rights award that recognises “steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk”. This award was inspired by the story of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose book The Gulag Archipelago exposed the true horrors of the Russian gulag system through the use of interviews, diaries, legal documents and his own experience as a gulag prisoner.

Unfortunately, the need for such awards merely confirms the continual existence of persecution, state-sponsored violence and oppression in our world. It signifies that human rights organisations such as Amnesty International have a long way to go in achieving freedom for everyone. In spite of this, I have hope that these brave individuals won’t give up and will continue to write for the sake of a better humanity. All of this reaffirms my steadfast belief that the pen truly is mightier than the sword, and that writing is the most important political tool of our century.

Writing as an act of courage

Ethiopian human rights defender Bogaletch Gebre has passed away

November 13, 2019

Ezega.com reported on 6 November 2019 the deatch of the highly-awarded woman human rights defender Bogaletch Gebre, founder of KMG Ethiopia (Kembatti Menotti Gezzima-Tope).

Bogaletch Gebre was a victim of female genital mutilation at the age of 12 and was forbidden from joining formal education, which forced her to sneak out of her home to attend a missionary school that paved the way for her to be what she became. Following her elementary years at the Missionary school, Bogalech Gebre attended various local schools as well as some prestigious Higher Education Institutions abroad.

In an interview with ETV, she said the trauma of FGM took her years to recuperate and she suffered complications from it years later. It wasn’t during her youth years Bogaletch Gebre learned more about what had happened to her and her family because of FGM. At the time Bogalech was a graduate student in the United States. When Bogaletch Gebre found out that FGM was needless and harmful practice, she became incensed. She eventually left her PhD program in epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and in 1995 she returned to Kembata Tembaro, her hometown in Ethiopia.

In 1997 she and her younger sister started KMG, an indigenous Resident Charity Organization with the goal of helping to create an environment where the values and rights of women are recognized and where their talents and wisdom are nurtured. The organization was founded with the two sister’s belief that if women are empowered and their talents nurtured, the lives of both men and women would improve.

Bogalech Gebre along with her sister began implementing their plans in the region of Kembatta – Tembaro. The organization they founded is now diversified its scope and operates in additional 24 of Southern Nations Nationalities and People’s Regional State (SNNPRS) and Oromia district, reaching out to more than 481,289 direct and 2,859,500 indirect beneficiaries, 70% of whom are women.

The realization of their effort has protected many girls from going through lasting complications. Bogalech Gebere believed and spoke about the need for a change and bringing together all communities, women, and men to make informed decisions.

In 2010, the Independent newspaper characterized her as “the woman who began the rebellion of Ethiopian women.” In particular, the Independent report praised her for KMG’s strong commitment to reduce the rate of bridal abductions in Kembatta and FGM. Bogalech Gebre was awarded the 2005 North-South Prize, in 2007 the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights and in 2013 both the Bruno Kreisky Award and he King Baudouin International Development Prize.

2019 Aurora Prize goes to Yazidi defender Mirza Dinnayi, founder of Air Bridge Iraq

October 20, 2019

Tom Catena, Aurora Humanitarian Initiative Chair and 2017 Aurora Prize Laureate, praised Mirza Dinnayi by saying: “What makes Mirza Dinnayi an outstanding human being is the fact he couldn’t live in good conscience knowing that good people are left behind, that the innocent are suffering. Trying to help others while facing an unspeakable evil can be challenging and frustrating, but he never wavered. I am delighted to congratulate Mirza Dinnayi with being awarded with the Prize and welcome him to the Aurora family.

Mirza Dinnayi will receive a $1,000,000 grant for support to organizations that have inspired his work. He has chosen to donate the funds to three organizations that provide medical care and rehabilitation to victims of ISIS terror:

  • Air Bridge Iraq;
  • SEED Foundation;
  • Shai Fund.

Working on behalf of the Yazidi community, Mirza Dinnayi has dedicated his whole life to saving the victims of the Iraq war, evacuating women and children from territories controlled by ISIS and providing those tortured and violated with rehabilitation and support. It was Dinnayi who brought to Germany the future Sakharov Prize Laureate Lamya Haji Bashar. Today, she is a renowned human rights activist and has one of Aurora’s scholarships named after her.Previous Aurora Prize Laureates include:

Burundian activist Marguerite Barankitse (2016) [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/25/inaugural-aurora-prize-1-million-goes-to-marguerite-barankitse-founder-of-burundian-orphanage/]

American physician and missionary Dr. Tom Catena (2017) and

Rohingya lawyer and human rights campaigner Kyaw Hla Aung (2018) [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/10/1-million-aurora-prize-awarded-to-rohingya-human-rights-defender-kyaw-hla-aung/].

The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative also honored the contributions of the other two 2019 Aurora Humanitarians who received a $50,000 grant each: Zannah Bukar Mustapha, Director and Founder of Future Prowess Islamic Foundation in Nigeria, and Huda Al-Sarari, Yemeni lawyer and human rights defender.