Arab Spring Activists Share Sakharov Prize
December 14, 2011, 5:46 pm
Asmaa Mahfouz, a founder of Egypt's April 6 Youth Movement, at the EP plenary in Strasbourg (with Jerzy Buzek in background).
STRASBOURG – Five individuals involved in the Arab Spring have been awarded the 2011 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament.
The prize, which includes 50,000 euros, was given to Ms Asmaa Mahfouz, an Egyptian Youth activist who used social media to organise protest in Tahrir Square; Ahmed al-Zubair Ahmed al-Sanusi, a Libyan ‘prisoner of conscience’ for 30 years who is now a member of the National Transitional Council; Ms Razan Zaitouneh, a Syrian human rights lawyer and blogger who remains in hiding; Ali Farzat, a Syrian political satirist and cartoonist; and (posthumously) to Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian market trader whose self-immolation in January began a wave of protest that would become the Arab Spring. Still in Syria, Razan Zaitouneh and Ali Farzat were not able to come to Strasbourg to collect their awards.
Speaking at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton said, "Whether through dramatic acts of self-sacrifice, stoic endurance in prison, or daily confronting injustice, they remind us of the true meaning of courage. By drawing cartoons or organising online they remind us that courage does not have to involve heroics. It is about speaking the truth and refusing to be intimidated.”
In this year's choice of winners, said European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek, "the European Parliament recognises the efforts of all those who struggle for dignity, basic freedoms and political change in the Arab world."
Awarded each year since 1988, the prize named for Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989). Previous winners have included Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Guillermo Fariñas and Oleg Orlov.
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