Syrian volunteer group White Helmets shares ‘Alternative Nobel’ with 3 others

  • AP, Stockholm
  • Updated: Sep 23, 2016 00:38 IST
In September 16, 2015 photo, comrades carry Ilias Mahmoud al-Taweel, a member of Syrian Civil Defence, or White Helmets, during his funeral in in Douma. (AP)

A volunteer group that rescues civilians from bombed-out buildings in Syria shares this year’s Right Livelihood Award, sometimes known as the “Alternative Nobel,” with activists from Egypt and Russia and a Turkish newspaper.

The prize foundation on Thursday announced the 2016 winners are the Syria Civil Defence group, also known as the White Helmets; Egyptian women’s rights activist Mozn Hassan and the Nazra for Feminist Studies; Russia Svetlana Gannushkina; and Turkish independent newspaper Cumhuriyet.

They will share a cash award of 3 million kronor ($350,000).

Created in 1980, the annual Right Livelihood Award honours efforts that prize founder, Swedish-German philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull, felt were being ignored by the Nobel Prizes.

“This year’s Right Livelihood Award Laureates confront some of the most pressing global issues head-on — be it war, freedom of speech, women’s rights or the plight of migrants,” said the founder’s nephew, Ole von Uexkull, the prize foundation’s director.

The White Helmets, a group of volunteer first responders, were cited for “for their outstanding bravery, compassion and humanitarian engagement in rescuing civilians from the destruction of the Syrian civil war.”

Hassan and her feminist organisation were honored “for asserting the equality and rights of women in circumstances where they are subject to ongoing violence, abuse and discrimination.”

The citation said the group has documented human rights violations and coordinated the response to sexual assaults on women participating in public protests during and after the uprising of 2011.

Gannushkina, a 74-year-old refugee rights advocate, was cited for her work to promote “human rights and justice for refugees and forced migrants, and tolerance among different ethnic groups.”

Cumhuriyet was praised for “fearless investigative journalism” in the face of “oppression, censorship, imprisonment and death threats.”

The paper’s former editor-in-chief, Can Dundar, and its Ankara representative, Erdem Gul, were sentenced to five years in prison in May for their reports on alleged Turkish arms smuggling to Syrian rebels. The two are appealing the verdict which increased concerns over media freedoms in Turkey.

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