Pro-Kurdish HDP’s Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ nominated by European Parliament for Sakharov Prize

Andrei Sakharov with his wife Yelena Bonner.

The European Parliament (EP) has announced on Friday that the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) leaders Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdaş, who were jailed by Turkish government of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, are among the nominees for its prestigious Sakharov Prize, awarded each year in the name of freedom of thought.

The European United Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) has nominated Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ for the prize to honor their work in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms in Turkey, according to a statement on the EP’s website. If awarded the prize, Demirtas will become the fourth Kurdish Sakharov laureate since the honor was established in 1988.

Turkish government arrested Demirtas, the co-chairperson of the HDP, and the party’s former co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ in November 2016 as the Erdoğan regime has accused them of ‘terror-related’ crimes. Charges prosecutors brought against the two politicians throughout numerous trials have ranged from insulting Erdoğan, collaborating with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), to working to divide the Turkish state with their speeches and political rallies. Both face more than a combined 150 years of imprisonment from their numerous trials.

Prominent Kurdish politician Leyla Zana who is the first Kurdish woman to make it to the Turkish Parliament in 1991, received the award in 1996. Yüksekdağ will become the second Kurdish woman laureate from Turkey after Zana. Turkish authorities had sentenced Zana to ten years in prison for a speech she gave at a conference on Kurdish rights in the United States.

The laureate is planning to be announced on October 26, 2017.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded each year by the European Parliament. It was set up in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Other nominees for this year’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought are as follow:

Asia Bibi (Aasiya Noreen), a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death in 2010 under the country´s blasphemy law. Bibi is on a death row for almost seven years and her appeal to the supreme court has been postponed to an undetermined date. She was nominated by ECR.

Aura Lolita Chavez Ixcaquic, a human rights defender from Guatemala. She is a member from the Council of Ki’che’ Peoples (CPK), an organisation that fights to protect natural resources and human rights from the expansion of mining, logging, hydroelectric and agro-industry sectors in the territory and has been subject to threats. She was nominated by Greens/EFA.

Democratic Opposition in Venezuela: National Assembly (Julio Borges) and all political prisoners as listed by Foro Penal Venezolano represented by Leopoldo López, Antonio Ledezma, Daniel Ceballos, Yon Goicoechea, Lorent Saleh, Alfredo Ramos and Andrea González. The situation in Venezuela has been seriously deteriorating as regards democracy, human rights and socio-economy, in a climate of growing political and social instability. Nominated by EPP and ALDE. Political prisoners in Venezuela as as well as the democratic opposition in Venezuela were also shortlisted for the Sakharov Prize in 2015.

Dawit Isaak, a Swedish-Eritrean playwright, journalist and writer, who was arrested in 2001 by the Eritrean authorities during a political crackdown. He has been imprisoned without a trial since and was last seen in 2005. Isaak was Sakharov finalist in 2009. He was nominated by S&D as well as by Wikström and 46 other MEPs.

Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, a Burundian human rights activist and founder of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH). He was detained in 2014, escaped an assassination attempt in 2015 and is now living in Belgium. He was nominated by EFDD.

Last year, Nadia Murad Basee and Lamiya Aji Bashar, whom the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) for months held as sex slaves after its 2014 genocidal campaign against the Yezidi religious minority the two women belong to, became the recipients of Sakharov.


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