The 2016 Right Livelihood Awards.
In Stockholm, Sweden, a volunteer group that rescues civilians from bombed-out buildings in Syria won the Right Livelihood Award yesterday, sometimes referred to as the “Alternative Nobel,” together with activists from Egypt and Russia and a Turkish newspaper. The Right Livelihood Awards uphold fundamental human rights and values in the face of war and repression. Created in 1980, the annual Right Livelihood Award honors efforts that prize founder, Swedish-German philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull, felt were being ignored by the Nobel Prizes. “This year’s Right Livelihood Award Laureates confront some of the most pressing global issues head-on — be it war, freedom of speech, women’s rights or the plight of migrants,” said the founder’s nephew, Ole von Uexkull, the prize foundation’s director.
The Syria Civil Defense group, also known as the White Helmets, was cited “for their outstanding bravery, compassion and humanitarian engagement in rescuing civilians from the destruction of the Syrian civil war.” The 3,000-strong group grew out of networks of volunteer first responders who were rescuing victims from government shelling and bombardment in opposition areas. Ibrahim Alhaj, a member of the White Helmets in Aleppo, called the award a pride for the Syrian revolution. “The teams of civil defense are working in besieged cities in most areas, like Aleppo city, besieged for more than two months and we are having difficulties securing fuel and the equipment needed for work,” he told The Associated Press in a Skype interview. Supporters of the White Helmets say the group deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, which will be announced in two weeks. They will share a cash award of 3 million kronor ($350,000) with Egyptian women’s rights activist Mozn Hassan and the Nazra for Feminist Studies; Russian rights campaigner Svetlana Gannushkina; and Turkish independent newspaper Cumhuriyet.
Hassan and her feminist organization were honored “for asserting the equality and rights of women in circumstances where they are subject to ongoing violence, abuse and discrimination.” The citation said the group has documented human rights violations and coordinated the response to sexual assaults on women participating in public protests during and after the 2011 uprising in Egypt.
The Turkish newspaper, Cumhuriyet, was praised for “fearless investigative journalism” in the face of “oppression, censorship, imprisonment, and death threats.” The paper’s former editor-in-chief, Can Dundar, and its Ankara representative, Erdem Gul, were sentenced to five years in prison in May for their reports on alleged Turkish arms smuggling to Syrian rebels. The two are appealing the verdict, which increased concerns over media freedoms in Turkey.
Credit: Karl Ritter of Associated Press 23 September 2016