Speech: Farah bezorgd om mensenrechten bij Oxfam Novib / PEN Awards 2016

  • 21 januari 2016
Farah Karimi: 'Ik zou willen dat dit soort awards niet nodig waren.' Foto: Hans Paul Alting von Geusau

Voor het eerst in de geschiedenis van de Oxfam Novib / PEN Awards kon geen van de winnaars persoonlijk zijn of haar prijs in ontvangst nemen. 'Het lijkt er op dat de wereld stappen achteruit zet als het gaat om het respecteren van mensenrechten', constateert Oxfam Novib-directeur Farah Karimi tijdens de prijsuitreiking.

Hieronder lees je de originele speech van Farah, welke zij in het Engels gaf.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are very pleased that we’ve continued our partnership with the Writers Unlimited Festival and PEN International. The Oxfam Novib/PEN award will tonight be awarded for the fifteenth time. Each year I wonder if we should award this price the next year as well. After all it is a prize for journalists and writers who are oppressed in practicing their right for freedom of speech and freedom of expression. I’d wish awards like these would not be necessary. After all, we’re talking about a human right, the right of every individual in the world. A right that should be warranted by governments and institutions of states.

Since the first Oxfam Novib/PEN award was awarded in 2001, 61 writers and journalists received the award. In my preparation for this event I was wondering what happened to previous winners. As far as I could find out, fortunately some of them are working in their own country as a writer or journalist like (2012 winner) Jesús Lemus Barajas from Mexico. But unfortunately a number of former winners are paying a high price like exile or imprisonment for their persistence on practicing their right of freedom of speech. For instance (2006 winner) Roya Toloui from Iran is in exile and (2003 winner) Ragip Zarakolu (Turkey) faced several trials. They still need international support and attention.

Two sad examples of former winners that are no longer with us are very well known: (2006 winner) Hrant Dink from Turkey, murdered in 2007 and (2004 winner) Anna Politkovskaya from Russia, murdered in 2006.

Unfortunately it seems there is a continuous trend in the 21st century that the world is taking steps backwards when it comes to respecting human rights. Political polarization, violence, terror, autocratic governments, repressive legislation and dictatorships are causing systematic human rights violations and limiting freedoms. Without respect for human rights, a just world without poverty, with social and economic justice, freedom and protection for women, minorities, and marginalized people will not be realized.

This is why it is important and necessary that we celebrate brave people who today dare to speak out and stand for their ideals. It is in this spirit that Oxfam Novib through the PEN awards has made it - with other PEN members - a long standing tradition to honour writers who courageously contribute to giving voice to the voiceless. Writers who are promoters and protectors of the freedom of expression, in spite of the risk of intimidation and persecution they might face.

This year we honour three writers.

The first is Amanuel Asrat from Eritrea. It was under Asrat’s wings that Eritrean poetry experienced a revival in the early 2000s. Mr. Asrat was editor in chief of the newspaper Zemen - meaning The Times. The paper was known amongst readers for its special interest in arts and literature, and Asrat - himself a leading poet as well as songwriter - was the most popular art critic of his time. In his poems Asrat explored subjects ranging from the daily life of the underprivileged, to war and peace. Asrat was arrested at his home on the morning of 23 September 2001, when the editors of all Eritrean private newspapers were rounded up. Asrat is still believed to be detained in a maximum security prison.

Secondly I would like to honor Can Dündar, writer, journalist and documentary film maker currently in pre-trial detention in Turkey, facing charges including espionage and “divulging state secrets”. Dündar, editor in chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, was arrested alongside Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul, in late November 2015. One of the most well-known media figures in Turkey, Dündar has written for several newspapers, produced many television programs and published more than 20 books in his wide-ranging career as journalist and publisher. Under his leadership since February 2015, Cumhuriyet newspaper received an award from Reporters Without Borders for its contributions to defending press freedoms shortly before Dündar was arrested.

Finally let me honour Omar Hazek from Egypt. Hazek’s publications include a collection of poetry in Arabic and English entitled ‘Nota’ - skies of freedom - which he co-published with other poets. After the overthrow of President Mubarak in 2011, Omar Hazek was outspoken in his allegations of corruption in the Library of Alexandria where he at that moment was employed. Omar Hazek was arrested in December 2013 for ‘protesting without permission’ in solidarity with the family of Khalid Said during a re-trial of Said’s alleged killers. In January 2014 he was sentenced by the lower court to two years of imprisonment and a US$7000 fine. In September 2015 Hazek was released from prison when he and 47 other prisoners received a presidential pardon.

It is really sad, that for the first time in the history of the Oxfam Novib Pen Award, NONE of the awarded writers is present with us tonight. When we selected the winners, Oxfam Novib and PEN International were aware that mr. Asrat was imprisoned and not able to be with us. Therefore mr. Habtom Johannes, an Eritrean-Dutch journalist will receive the award on behalf of mr. Asrat. In November 2015 mr. Dundar was arrested in Turkey. For this reason his wife Mrs Delic Dündar is present tonight and will receive the award and read a letter that mr. Dündar wrote in prison.

And finally, until this morning we assumed that mr. Hazek would give his award winners speech to us in a few minutes. But unfortunately we received a message that he was prohibited to leave from Caïro airport by the Egyptian authorities and will not be with us either. His Egyptian colleague Alaa al Aswani, who was already invited to join the festival, will receive the price on behalf of mister Hazek. All of this makes once again clear how seriously the free word is under threat.

[After these words, Farah Karimi asked mrs. Dündar, mr. Yohannes and mr. Al Aswani to enter the stage.]

Bron: Oxfam Novib, 17 januari 2016


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