An exiled Turkish journalist, a Crimean Tartar activist and two Yazidi victims of the Islamic state group were shortlisted Tuesday (11 October) for the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov human rights prize.
The prize is awarded every year to honour individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression, often falling foul of their governments as a result.
Can Dündar is the former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet, Turkey’s top opposition daily, who was sentenced by a Turkish court in May to five years and ten months in prison for allegedly revealing state secrets in a story that infuriated Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The controversial trial of two well-known Turkish journalists enters its second day Friday (1 April) in a case seen as a test of press freedom under the increasingly autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Cumhuriyet’s report on a shipment of arms intercepted at the Syrian border sparked a furore, with Erdoğan warning Dundar he would “pay a heavy price”.
Dündar is believed to be in Germany after he was freed earlier this year pending an appeal following his trial.
Also nominated was human rights activist Mustafa Dzhemilev, a former Soviet dissident and Ukrainian MP.
Dzhemilev is a leader of the long oppressed Tartar community in Crimea, the strategic peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014 from Ukraine.
Dzhemilev, after already living in exile from Crimea for 45 years, is again barred from entering the peninsula by the Russian authorities.
Among the other nominees was Iraqi activist Nadia Murad, who was an IS sex slave before becoming the face of a campaign to protect her Yazidi people.
The slight, softly spoken young woman was taken by IS from her home village of Kocho near Iraq’s northern town of Sinjar in August 2014.
Among the first things the IS forced on her was to disavow her Yazidi faith, an ancient religion with more than half a million adherents concentrated in northern Iraq.
The Strasbourg-based Council of Europe on Monday (10 October) awarded its Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize to Murad, who shares her Sakharov nomination with Yazidi advocate Lamiya Aji Bashar, also from Socho and enslaved by IS.
Last year, the Parliament awarded the prize to Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi, jailed in his country for “insulting” Islam.
The winner will be choses by MEPs on 27 October during a plenary session of European Parliament.
Past winners include Pakistani education campaigner Malala Yousafzai, late South African rights icon Nelson Mandela and Myanmar activist Aung San Suu Kyi. The prize carries an award of €50,000 ($56,000).