Celebrating Those Who Unmask The Lie of Dictatorship Through Art

The Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent is named after the late Czech poet, playwright, dissident, statesman and former and HRF chairman Václav Havel, the Havel prize celebrates activists who exhibit bravery, creativity, and artistic innovation in standing up against dictatorships. 

HRF launched the Havel Prize in 2012 with the support of Dagmar Havlová, Havel’s widow, Dagmar Havlová.


Who was 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.

For Havel, living in truth meant an unwavering commitment to living according to one’s belief in democracy and civil liberty.

In his 1978 essay “The Power of the Powerless,” Havel describes how ordinary citizens naturally resist dictatorship just by living their lives.

He tells us the parable of the greengrocer, who puts a communist propaganda sign into his store window simply because that is the way things are done: the sign arrives with his carrots and onions and he displays it alongside them.

If he fails to display the sign, there would be trouble. He may disagree with the message on the sign, but he is compelled to put it up, and thus lives within a lie.

Havel explains that dictatorships rely on this kind of social control, where in order to preserve a normal life, people are willing to submit to the system.

If one day the greengrocer refuses to put the sign up, his quiet defiance of the limits set by the system has the potential to inspire others and ignite a mass revolt , channeling what Havel calls a “singular, explosive, incalculable political power.”


2019 Laureates
Rap Against Dictatorship
Rayma Suprani
Ramy Essam

2018 Laureates
Emmanuel Jal
Belarus Free Theatre
Mai Khôi

2017 Laureates
Silvanos Mudzvova
Aayat Alqormozi
El Chigüire Bipolar

2016 Laureates
Atena Farghadani
Umida Akhmedova

2015 Laureates
Sakdiyah Ma’ruf

2014 Laureates
Erdem Gunduz (Turkey’s Standing Man)
Pussy Riot
Dhondup Wangchen

2013 Laureates
Ali Ferzat
Park Sang Hak
Ladies in White

2012 Laureates
Manal al-Sharif
Ai Weiwei
Aung San Suu Kyi

"The rain starts with a single drop."

Manal al-Sharif, Saudi women's rights advocate and 2012 Havel Prize laureate