The fourth Václav Havel Human Rights Prize – which honours outstanding civil society action in defence of human rights – has been awarded to Yazidi human rights activist Nadia Murad. The €60 000 prize was presented at a special ceremony today at the Palais de l’Europe in Strasbourg, on the opening day of the autumn plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
At the age of 21 (in 2014), Nadia Murad was kidnapped by ISIS in northern Iraq together with thousands of other women and children. She was kept in slavery and abused for three months until she managed to escape and flee to Germany. Since then, she has become a human rights activist, bringing the plight of the Yazidi community, in particular the forced sexual enslavement and human trafficking of women and children captured by ISIS, to the forefront of international attention. She was a candidate for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize; in September 2016, she was appointed as the first United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking.
The two other shortlisted nominees – Gordana Igric, a journalist from Serbia and an active defender of human rights and media freedom, and the International Institute of Human Rights/René Cassin Foundation, which has worked since 1969 to promote human rights and peace through teaching and research, also received diplomas during the ceremony.
"This year would have marked the 80th anniversary of Václav Havel. He is not with us any more, but his legacy is more relevant than ever," PACE President Pedro Agramunt said during the ceremony. “Through his writing and his political activity, he forewarned about the danger of hatred and prejudice, and the importance of tolerance, co-existence, and respect for human rights and the rule of law. In times when we are facing renewed challenges to the unity of Europe, when diversity is becoming a dividing element, and people are starting to look at each other with suspicion and mistrust, we must turn back to his message,” he underlined.
The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize is awarded each year by the Parliamentary Assembly, in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation, to reward outstanding civil society action in defence of human rights in Europe and beyond. Nominations of any individual, non-governmental organisation or institution working to defend human rights are taken into consideration. The Prize consists of a sum of € 60 000, a trophy and a diploma.
The Prize is awarded in memory of Václav Havel, playwright, opponent of totalitarianism, architect of the Velvet Revolution of 1989, President of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic and an enduring symbol of opposition to despotism.
The first Václav Havel Prize was awarded in 2013 to Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski. The Azerbaijani human rights defender Anar Mammadli won the Prize in 2014, and veteran Russian human rights defender Ludmilla Alexeeva was last year’s winner.