NEW YORK (May 3, 2022) — Today, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is pleased to announce the three recipients of the 2022 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent.
The 2022 Havel Laureates are professional basketball player and human rights advocate Enes Kanter Freedom, Iranian artist project PaykanArtCar, and Ukrainian-born Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova. This year’s laureates will receive their awards on Wednesday, May 25, during the 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum.
Enes Kanter Freedom is a professional basketball player and vocal advocate for human rights. Since the start of the 2021 NBA season, he has used his global platform to consistently raise awareness of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s human rights abuses. Using his basketball shoes as the canvas for his messages, he wore multiple artistic designs highlighting issues such as the Uyghur genocide, the occupation of Tibet, slave labor at the Nike shoe factories, and the intolerance of China’s dictator. As a result of his creative dissent, he is now banned from China and was dropped by both the Boston Celtics and the Houston Rockets, despite being only 29 years old and in the prime of his career. Freedom’s perseverance has captured the attention of international media and informed millions of sports fans about the global struggle for individual rights in places like Tibet and the Uyghur region. At a time when professional athletes display incessant hypocrisy, unlimited greed, and double standards, Freedom emerges as the moral conscience of professional basketball. Freedom first came to international attention as an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, making him a target of Turkey’s government — he was deemed a “terrorist” by the regime, stripped of his passport, and was publicly disowned by his family. In late 2021, he changed his name and added “Freedom” as his official last name.
The PaykanArtCar unites the talents of contemporary Iranian artists in the diaspora with a beloved symbol of Iranian national pride — the Paykan automobile — to advocate for human rights in Iran. The car used was once gifted by Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran to the Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu, and was purchased at an auction to serve as the canvas for artwork by Iranian artists in exile. Each year, PaykanArtCar commissions an exceptional Iranian artist-in-exile to use the car to capture the Iranian struggle for human dignity and basic freedoms. The inaugural PaykanArtCar was designed by Alireza Shojaian and features a historic Persian design with a provocative message about the brutality and ruthlessness faced by the marginalized and oppressed LGBTQ+ community inside Iran. The PaykanArtCar represents brave, creative dissent against the human rights abuses of Iran’s theocratic dictatorial regime. The PaykanArtCar will travel to Norway to be present at the Oslo Freedom Forum as part of Human Rights Foundation’s Art in Protest exhibit and will be parked at the event venue. The second edition of PaykanArtCar will be painted by a female Iranian artist and will advocate for women’s rights in Iran.
Marina Ovsyannikova is a Ukrainian-born Russian journalist and activist, who staged a live protest against the war in Ukraine during a news broadcast of Russian state TV. Ovsyannikova was a longtime editor at Russia’s Channel One, where her job was to assist those engaged in disinformation to be distributed to the Russian people. After thinking through ways in which she could protest, she chose to interrupt a live broadcast, holding a sign calling for “no war.” Following her demonstration on live TV and a subsequent anti-war video, Ovsyannikova was held overnight in a police station, denied access to a lawyer, and ultimately fined 30,000 roubles — she disappeared without contact for more than 12 hours. The Kremlin denounced her protest as “hooliganism,” and Ovsyannikova faces up to 15 years in prison under Russia’s disinformation laws. In a recent article, she expressed profound regret for her years as a participant in “the Russian propaganda machine” where her job was to create “aggressive Kremlin propaganda – propaganda that constantly sought to deflect attention from the truth, and to blur all moral standards,” she says: “I cannot undo what I have done. I can only do everything I possibly can to help destroy this machine and end this war.”
The Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent is named after the late Czech president, poet, playwright, dissident, statesman, and former HRF chairman Václav Havel. Havel led the nonviolent revolution that freed Czechoslovakia from communist rule, using first, his poetry and plays, and later, political essays and the Charter 77 manifesto, to challenge arbitrary power and injustice in his country. HRF launched the Havel Prize in 2012 with the support of Dagmar Havlová, Havel’s widow.
“Each year, the Havel Prize celebrates those who, with bravery and ingenuity, unmask the lies of dictatorship, and who put forth work that exemplifies tremendous courage and creativity,” said HRF Chief Executive Officer Thor Halvorssen.
Havel Prize laureates receive a bronze sculpture depicting the “Goddess of Democracy,” the iconic figure erected by Chinese students during the Tiananmen Square protests in June 1989. Each sculpture embodies the spirit of creative dissent and represents the power of truth and beauty in the face of brutality and oppression. The laureates also share a prize of 350,000 Norwegian kroner.
Previous laureates include Chinese Dissident artist Badiucao, the late Rwandan gospel musician and activist Kizito Mihigo, Saudi women’s rights activist Manal al-Sharif, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, South Sudanese activist and musician Emmanuel Jal, the Belarus Free Theatre, North Korean activist Park Sang-hak, and Thai band Rap Against Dictatorship.
The Havel Prize ceremony will be broadcast live at oslofreedomforum.com on Wednesday, May 25. If you would like to attend the ceremony in Oslo, please register here, and for regular updates, follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @OsloFF.
The Human Rights Foundation is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.
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