Hrant Dink, founder and journalist of Agos (meaning the place where the plough opens a hole in the soil to give the seed in as a source of fertility), the first weekly newspaper in Istanbul published in both Turkish and Armenian, was assassinated in front of his office on January 19, 2007. The Hrant Dink Foundation was founded right after his death with the devotion to the development of a culture of dialogue, empathy and peace as the basis of all its activities, in line with Dink’s own personality and biography. Since 2009 the foundation has been annually awarding the International Hrant Dink Prize, the most prestigious human rights award in Turkey. The reward is given to people or institutions from Turkey and abroad, who/which “work for a world free of discrimination, racism, and violence, take personal risks for their ideals, use the language of peace and by doing so inspire and encourage others”.
The 8th International Hrant Dink Award was presented last Thursday, with an award ceremony held at the Istanbul Lütfi Kırdar International Convention and Exhibition Centre. This year’s awards were granted to the Diyarbakir Bar Association, a civil society organization that works for human rights and rule of law in the predominantly Kurdish city and peripheries, and to Theresa Kachindamoto, a tribal chief from Malawi who advocates for children’s rights, specifically against child marriage.
As part of the ceremony, people and organizations from Turkey and the world, raising hope for the future with their actions were saluted with the video ‘Inspirations 2016’. Among this year’s inspirations were Fatima Talep, a Muslim MP of the Badalona region in Spain for performing the wedding of a gay couple despite negative reactions; the ‘Association of Bridging People from Izmir’ for supporting refugees to access their most fundamental human rights; the Rana Choir from Israel formed by Jewish and Arab women for voicing their call for peace with their multilingual repertoire; Ayse Çelik, a teacher from Diyarbakır, for publicly drawing attention to the violence in Turkey’s east via a call-in on a popular TV show, which resulted in her being charged with conducting terrorist propaganda; the Iraqi couple Khalil Hasan and Ameena Saeed for working to rescue Ezidi women kidnapped by ISIS; Saadet Özkan, a teacher from Izmir for reporting the sexual abuse of her students by the school principal and bringing the case to court; the mine workers of Yeni Çeltek Mine in Amasya for their resistance against the closure of their work place, which paid off after more than a month’s effort; Yüsra Mardini, a young Syrian swimmer who together with her sister rescued 20 passengers after swimming for four hours on the Aegean when they boat started to take water on their way to Greece and eventually made it to the Refugee Olympic Team; Wang Yan from China for spending his entire fortune to transform a slaughterhouse into a dog shelter and rescue center; the Academics for Peace from Turkey for their courageous call to end the violence and human rights violations taking place in the Kurdish provinces; and the News Watch journalists from Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir for gathering in the name of freedom of press and the right to accurate information in the eastern provinces, and making news about the ongoing situation in independent media channels, with their slogan ‘We seek the truth and support our colleagues’. The ceremony also saluted and commemorated all the people who acted and spoke against the coup-attempt on July 15th in support of democracy, regardless of their political affiliation, religion, language and gender identity.