Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Human Rights Foundation Inaugurates The Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent

"Even a purely moral act that has no hope of any immediate and visible political effect can gradually and indirectly, over time, gain in political significance." - Václav Havel

Inaugural Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent Awarded to Ai Weiwei, Manal al-Sharif, and Aung San Suu Kyi

The inaugural Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent was awarded to Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, Saudi women’s rights advocate Manal al-Sharif, and Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The three laureates were honored at the Havel Prize ceremony at the Oslo Freedom Forum in Oslo, Norway on May 9.

An initiative of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF), the Havel Prize for Creative Dissent was founded with the support of Dagmar Havlová, Václav Havel’s widow.

“This is a magnificent way to honor the memory of Václav Havel—by recognizing those who, with bravery and ingenuity, unmask the lie of dictatorship by living in truth,” said Havlová, a member of the prize committee.

Ai Weiwei, China’s most famous artist, has become one of the Chinese government’s most prominent and innovative critics. Unwilling to accept a political system that violates human rights, he continues to express himself across numerous media—despite being detained, fined, harassed, and constantly under surveillance.

Manal al-Sharif at Oslo Freedom Forum 2012

Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi mother and computer-security professional, last year posted a YouTube video of herself defying her country’s draconian ban on women driving. She was arrested and, after a groundswell of protest, released. Her ongoing advocacy has breathed life into a new movement for individual rights.

Aung San Suu Kyi, one of Václav Havel's heroes, has over three decades built a unique international profile to help lead the fight for democracy in Burma. Recently released from house arrest and allowed to campaign, she was elected to Burma's parliament and is leading a nationwide push against the dictatorship.

These three Havel Prize laureates received an artist’s representation of the “Goddess of Democracy,” the iconic statue erected by Chinese student leaders during the Tiananmen Square protests of June, 1989. Each sculpture embodies the spirit and literal reality of creative dissent at its finest, representing the struggle of truth and beauty against brute power. The Havel Prize laureates also shared a prize of 350,000 Norwegian Kroner.

The Havel Prize is funded jointly by grants from the Brin Wojcicki Foundation and the Thiel Foundation. The Brin Wojcicki Foundation was established by Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, and his wife Anne Wojcicki, co-founder of 23andMe, a leading personal genetics company. The Thiel Foundation, established and funded by Peter Thiel, defends and promotes freedom in all its dimensions: political, personal, and economic.

The Havel Prize ceremony was live-streamed at on Wednesday, May 9. The event took place at Oslo’s Christiania Theater and registration was open to the public.

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