The ninth International Hrant Dink Award was presented on Friday, September 15th during an award ceremony held at the Istanbul Lütfi Kırdar International Convention and Exhibition Centre. This year’s awards were granted to lawyer Eren Keskin, who raises human rights violations in the agenda of Turkey and the international community for many years by taking all the risk, and to artist Ai Weiwei, who draws attention to inequality and human rights violations throughout the world via his works of art.

The award ceremony was hosted by Ece Dizdar and the opening speech was made by the President of Hrant Dink Foundation, Rakel Dink. During her speech, Dink also referred to the ones who got in jail for expressing their thoughts and concluded her words by saluting the human rights defenders who were detained and arrested on July 5th.

The award ceremony started with Ayşenur Kolivar’s performance of 'Da im Yusuf Orti', a traditional Hamshentsi song. Brenna MacCrimmonMuammer Ketencoğluwomen from Sayat Nova ChoirHelesa and Dalepe Nena also took the stage during the night. 

You can reach 2017 Award Booklet by clicking here.

2017 awardees were announced at the end of the award ceremony. 2017 International Hrant Dink Awards were granted to Ai Weiwei and Eren Keskin.

Ai Weiwei was born in Beijing in 1957. After the Cultural Revolution, he returned to Beijing. He studied animation at Beijing Film Academy. In 1983 he went to New York to continue his arts education. He left school and made a living by painting portraits on the street. In 1993 he returned to China. In 2008, after the Szechuan Earthquake he visited the region and realized that the government did not provide factual information on the disaster. Creating a ‘Citizens’ Investigation’ website, he released information on faulty construction and sub-standard materials used in schools which caused the death of countless people, shared stories of students who had perished, and published articles about the earthquake during the investigation process. The site was closed by official decree. In 2010 a demolition order was issued for his newly built studio in Shanghai, where he wanted to teach architecture classes. He was ordered to be placed under house arrest; although the order was rescinded the next day, it was followed by attempts to prevent him from leaving the country. In 2011 he was apprehended. His studio was searched, materials confiscated, co-workers detained. He was held for three months. Since 2015 he uses his art installations on the flight from Middle East to Europe, to draw the world’s attention to refugees’ struggle to survive.

Eren Keskin was born in 1959 in Bursa, Turkey. She graduated from the Faculty of Law of Istanbul University. She joined the Human Rights Association of Turkey in 1989, where she worked for many years as a director. During the state of emergency of the early 1990s, she took part in committees formed to fight against the grievous human rights violations in the Kurdish-majority areas; during visits to the region she became the target of verbal as well as armed attacks. In the 1990s, nearly 200 court cases were brought against her. Because she had used the word ‘Kurdistan’ in an article published in the newspaper Özgür Gündem [Free Agenda] in 1995, she spent six months in jail. In 1997 she founded the Legal Assistance Office against Sexual Abuse and Rape in Custody. In 2002, in a case brought against her for a speech she gave on the subject of sexual torture by the state, she was sentenced to ten months in prison. That same year, the Disciplinary Board of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations issued a decision to bar her from working as a lawyer for one year. During this period, the mainstream media engaged in a smear campaign against her. Within the framework of a support campaign for the Özgür Gündem newspaper, she served for three years as its co-editor in chief. Today, there are still 143 open cases against her, one for a speech she made, and the others concerned with this duty which she performed voluntarily.

Ai Weiwei and Eren Keskin received their awards from the jury members Murathan Mungan and Ahmet Özmen representing Diyarbakır Bar Association. 

As part of the ceremony, the people and organisations from Turkey and from around the world, who raise hope for the future with their actions were saluted with the video ‘Inspirations 2017’. Among the inspirations of 2017 Hombres Tejedores, men who knit, which criticizes the patriarchal social system, Mehmet Nesim Öner who won a gold medal at the Paralympic games, Startblok which offers opportunities for young nationals and refugees to live together, Future Vision Acrobat which brings together disadvantaged youth, Lice Adalet Arıyor which works on finding new witnesses and on informing the public, Refugees in US who organize a boycott against Trump’s refugee policies, Majed Alesa who goes against the roles imposed by the society on women in his video, Çorbada Tuzun Olsun who distributes soup to homeless by volunteer help, Victoria Emah Emah who brings hope to children who lost their parents because of AIDS, activists who turned a dormitory of University of Oxford to shelter for homeless, DEF RAP group who connects between the hearing impaired and other people, activists who resist the pipeline passing through Standing Rock in North Dakota, Syrian women who share the hope of life in Women to Women Refugee Kitchen.

The award jury for this year is composed of, 2016 International Hrant Dink Award laureate tribal chief working for children’s human and educational rights Theresa Kachindamoto, 2016 International Hrant Dink Award lauraete Diyarbakır Bar Association struggling for human rights and rule of law in Turkey, philosopher Étienne Balibar, Reporters Without Borders General Director Christophe Deloire, President of Hrant Dink Foundation Rakel Dink, director, scenarist and producer Atom Egoyan, philosopher Michel Marian, poet, writer and literature critic Murathan Mungan, feminist author and human rights activist whom we lost last June, Şirin Tekeli.

The International Hrant Dink Award was presented to the following individuals and organizations in the past years: A tribal chief who works for children’s human rights and education rights Theresa Kachindamoto, a civil society organisation that works for human rights and rule of law Diyarbakır Bar Association in 2016; women’s rights activist from Saudi Arabia Samar Badawi and LGBT association KAOS GL, in 2015; to forensic medicine specialist and human rights defender Şebnem Korur Fincancı and activist Angie Zelter in 2014; to human rights defender Nataša Kandić and Saturday Mothers / People in 2013; to writer İsmail Beşikçi and human rights organisation International “Memorial” Society Russia in 2012; to journalist-writer Ahmet Altan and journalist, human rights defender Lydia Cacho in 2011; the Conscientious Objection Movement of Turkey and prosecutor Baltasar Garzón in 2010; to the journalist-writer Alper Görmüş and journalist-writer Amira Hass in 2009.

The award ceremony was broadcast live through and www.hrantdinkodulu.orgHighlights of the ceremony were shared real-time in Turkish, English and Armenian through the Facebook and Twitter accounts of the Foundation and the award with the following #HrantDinkÖdülü, #HrantDinkAward, #ՀրանդՏինքՄրցանակ.