Maryam al-Khawaja, acting President of Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), accepting the Rafto Prize 2013 on behalf of the BCHR at the National Stage, Bergen, 3 November 2013.Photo by: Lind and Lunde / Rafto Foundation
Representatives from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Maryam al-Khawaja and Yousif al-Muhafdha, during the torchlight procession in Bergen, Norway, after the 2013 Rafto Prize Award Ceremony on 3 November.Photo by: Lind and Lunde / Rafto Foundation
Rafto Prize 2013 awarded to Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
Published: Sunday, 3 November 2013, 21:20
Modified: Monday, 31 March 2014, 14:35
- The person who should be on this stage is not me but the people on the streets in Bahrain. They are the unnamed heroes, said a humble Maryam al-Khawaja, acting President for Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), in her acceptance speech at the Rafto Prize award ceremony on 3 November 2013.
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) was awarded the 2013 Rafto Prize at the National Stage, Bergen, on 3 November. Maryam al-Khawaja, acting President for BCHR, accepted the prize on behalf of BCHR.
A victim of double standards
The 2013 Rafto Prize is awarded to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) for their long and courageous fight for fundamental human rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of association in Bahrain. By awarding the Rafto Prize to BCHR, the Rafto Foundation turn the spotlight on the systematic violations of human rights in a region where abuse is too often met with silence from western governments.
Maryam al-Khawaja used her acceptance speech to read from a letter sent from the BCHRs President, Nabeel Rajab. He is presently imprisoned in Bahrain serving a two year sentence for having “encouraged illegal gatherings”.
"Brutal violations are still continuing today against peaceful Bahrainis while the whole world continues to stay silent, especially Bahrain’s western allies. Our nation is a victim of being in an oil rich region and a victim of hypocrisies and double standards. Unfortunately, dictators of the gulf region succeeded in silencing governments of the free world in return for shortsighted economic and financial gains. Petrodollars have been able to silence global media and prevent them from revealing our people’s sufferings. We hope that with your support we can overcome this thick barrier as it has become so painful for our people to understand why the whole world deserves freedom and democracy except the small nations of oil rich countries in Gulf."
Rafto Prize Committee speech to BCHR
The Chair of the Rafto Prize Committee, Martin Paulsen, underlined the three main reasons for awarding the Rafto Prize 2013 to the BCHR.
- They have been working for the rights of the Bahraini citizens and the many labor migrants in the country, they have promoted non-violence in the protests against the regime and they have started using digital media to spread their message in a very effective manner. All this at the risk of being arrested, tortured or even killed by Bahraini security forces, said Paulsen in his speech at the National Stage, Bergen.
"My people are suffering"
Yousif al-Muhafdha, the Vice President and the Head of the Monitering and documentation Unit of Bahrain Center for Human Rights, also took to the stage during the ceremony. He was the person who introdused social media to the BCHR.
- My people are suffering. Me and all the members of the BCHR are responsible for getting out the information on what is happening in Bahrain, said al-Muhafdha.
On 1 November the BCHR launched a campaign to end impunity in Bahrain. At the Rafto Conference on 2 November, Maryam al-Khawaja encouraged us all to help them by sharing the campaign. As she said on stage "all you need is your phone."
Rafto Prize award ceremony
The Rafto Prize award ceremony took place at the National Stage, Bergen, Norway, from 6pm to 7.15pm on Sunday 3 November. Maryam al-Khawaja received a diploma and prize money of 20 000 USD on behalf of Bahrain Center of Human Rights, the 2013 Rafto Prize laureate.
Several artists contributed during the award ceremony honouring the 2013 Rafto Prize laureate. These were Kjetil Møster, Sirenene, Maylen Rusti, Thomas Valeur, Eva & the Heartmaker, Zhala Aliyeva, and actors from the National Stage, Bergen. Master of ceremonies was Siri Lill Mannes, the CEO of SpeakLab, a centre for communication skills.
The ceremony was followed by a torchlight procession in the city center of Bergen.
Written by Åse Schytte, Project Consultant Rafto Foundation Information Department
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Lind and Lunde/Rafto Foundation
Representatives from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Maryam al-Khawaja and Yousif al-Muhafdha, during the torchlight procession in Bergen, Norway, after the 2013 Rafto Prize Award Ceremony on 3 November.
Photo by Lind and Lunde / Rafto Foundation