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International Hrant Dink Award – Sept. 15, 2014
Angie Zelter– Award Speech

I feel honoured to receive this prize today and to be here with you. Thank you for this privilege. I am full of admiration for the brave and compassionate life and work of Hrant Dink and feel deep sadness that his life was cut short by such a horrific murder. His work for a more inclusive and democratic Turkey is truly inspirational. For thousands of years human societies have been controlled by small, rich elites who have concentrated power into their own hands and then abused it, using force to gain control over other people's lands and resources. This exploitative, competitive, violent process has led to the murder, repression and dispossession of many millions of people, as well as destruction of the natural environment and other species.

Today, global corporations and an unbridled military-industrial complex put profits before people and the environment, and contribute massively to greenhouse gas emissions. Climate chaos is impacting on us all, and the poorest peoples suffer most.

Millions of ordinary people continue to struggle against the wrongs that are being committed. We affirm by our actions and words that they are not done in our names.

I am ashamed to admit that my home country, the UK, has an appalling record of human rights abuses going back centuries. Many millions of people have been killed at the hands of the British State. The killing continues to this day, despite the propaganda that maintains that the British government supports democracy, freedom and human rights.

Of course there are many wonderful British civil society groups that try their best to do just this. It is not British people in general who are to blame. It is the British government and its institutions, replicated in many other parts of the world, that act in ways totally inconsistent with these fine ideals.

Britain systematically undermines and violates international law. It supports and trades weapons with some of the most repressive regimes in the world. It aids and abets human rights abuses wherever it wishes to access geo-strategic positions, resources or assets. It encourages militarisation creating fear and making us all more insecure. Instead of dealing with the root causes of conflict it creates more conflict. Currently it supplies arms to Israel and refuses to condemn Israeli war crimes and breaches of humanitarian law in the occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza.

Moreover, Britain, with its illegal 100 kiloton nuclear warheads, engagement in foreign 'interventions' and in its support of the US's interminable so called 'war on terrorism' is engaged in 'state terrorism'.

I value many good things about my country but feel it is important for everyone to be able to criticise their own countries, from inside and outside, in order for them to change for the better.

Along with many others, I have tried to act to put a stop to wrongs. I have concentrated mostly upon the ills of militarisation and have used international humanitarian law as a tool for peaceful conflict resolution. I am committed to nonviolent action as I believe that violence only begets more violence and that we have to attempt to live according to our visions.

In 1995 I joined women campaigning to prevent the British Government's sales of weapons to Suharto, the repressive dictator of Indonesia, who had killed a million of his own people. Although we knew it was unlikely that Britain would stop the arms deal for 24 military aircraft, worth £400 million, we were determined to do everything we could to oppose it. When our letters and demonstrations had no effect, three of us hammered on one of the British Aerospace Hawk jet planes that were to be exported to Indonesia to engage in further genocidal attacks in East Timor, where a third of the population had already been killed. The Hawk jet was 'disarmed' - £1.5 million worth of damage to the body of the plane and the controls meant it could not be exported.

I then completed the 2nd stage of our joint action by going to court to start proceedings against the Secretary of State for Trade & Industry for conspiring to aid and abet acts of genocide, and to ask for an injunction to prevent the delivery of the rest of the Hawks. After several appearances urging the public and Parliamentarians to join our disarmament actions, the police finally caught up with me and I joined the other 3 in a high security prison for 6 months. If found guilty we faced 10 years in prison.

Despite the judge at our trial saying we were dangerous women who should be locked up for a very long time, the jury of 12 ordinary men and women acquitted us, agreeing that our actions were justified in order to prevent war crimes and human rights abuses.

We have not stopped the powerful and corrupt arms trade yet, but more people are protesting about it.

It is significant that the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – China, France, Russia, UK and US - are some of the largest arms dealers in the world. They sell weapons, provide military training and intelligence to repressive regimes, and form military alliances with them. They all possess nuclear weapons. These are the major powers that are meant to be responsible for maintaining peace and security.

Which is why many people are campaigning for a reform of the UN Security Council, for nuclear disarmament and for an end to the expansionist nuclear alliance called NATO.

Nuclear weapons have been a focus for me as they undermine the integrity and morality of all nations that deploy them. I therefore founded Trident Ploughshares, a campaign which is based on international law and is an open challenge to the legitimacy of the UK's nuclear forces. Thousands of us have taken action, been arrested, and gone to court in order to protest about the UK's preparations to commit nuclear war crimes.

In 1999, I and 2 other women from Trident Ploughshares, took a boat over to a floating test laboratory on Loch Goil in Scotland. It was an essential part of the UK's nuclear weapons system. Breaking into the laboratory we managed to disable it by completely emptying it - throwing equipment overboard and cutting electric cables.

We spent five months in prison and then won a landmark case. Both judge and jury agreed with our legal arguments that the UK's nuclear weapons could never be used in conformity with international law. We were thus in our rights to take nonviolent steps to prevent preparations for mass murder.

Our acquittal caused a political furore. The Government could not appeal, so it took various of the legal points raised in the trial to the High Court. They dug up an ancient precedent that says that the legality of the armed forces cannot be questioned in the courts. Of course, this is a nonsense. Any democracy worth its name must be able to take legal action against any arm of the State if it is acting illegally. The debate continues and so do our actions. It is a long slow path towards genuine respect for international humanitarian law.

Trident Ploughshares and various other campaigns I am involved with continue to do all we can to de-legitimise the UK's nuclear weapons through the use of the law and by nonviolent, accountable direct action. We continue to blockade and break into nuclear bases in order to disprupt the military's business as usual. Our frequent nonviolent but effective incursions into high security nuclear bases led to the removal of all of the US nuclear weapons stored in the UK because they could not guarantee their safety.

We also use colourful and creative protest to get the public's attention. For instance, over the last 2 years thousands of us have been knitting 1 metre lengths of a pink peace scarf that were finally joined in a 7 mile stretch to link the 2 nuclear bomb making factories at Aldermaston and Burghfield. The peace scarf will be used for protests a few more times before being made up into blankets for refugees.

Campaigning at home is very important but so is international solidarity. Many people in the UK feel direct responsibility for Britain's historic role in Palestine and its betrayal of the Palestinians. I joined others involved in direct action in support of Palestinian human rights taking part in the beginning of the International Solidarity Movement. I was also arrested many times in peaceful demonstrations after founding the International Womens' Peace Service based in a rural village in the West Bank. I am now banned from entering Israel but the project continues to give support to beleaguered Palestinians.

The recent attacks on Gaza have prompted a wave of protests because ordinary citizens cannot bear our government's collusion with Israeli war crimes. Public awareness has increased dramatically over the years and more are now engaged in non-violent actions, including, for example, occupying the offices of companies such as Elbit and G4S, that profit directly from Israel's military regime and repression of Palestinians.

There are so many wonderful examples of how people are rising up against human rights abuses and confronting their governments and corporations. People all around the world are finally identifying as global citizens and casting off the prejudices of narrow short-sighted nationalistic self-interest. If we continue to reach out to each other then maybe we will be able to restore the natural world and create compassionate, loving societies.

I still live in hope.
International Hrant Dink Award – Sept. 15, 2014
Sebnem Korur Fincanci Award Speech

Dear Friends,

I greet you all with love and friendship and I commemorate with friendship and longing all our friends and comrades around the World slain by states, our pigeons left uneasy and unprotected in these lands, and most especially that beautiful human being, Hrant Dink. I am a physician and and I always believe that being a physician is a way of life. I learned about struggling for humanity, siding with humanity when I chose this way of life. I have also always thought that there’s no other way.

Today I feel much embarrassed and incredibly honoured. I feel embarrassed because I am receiving this award as I merely try to fulfil the responsibility of being human. In addition to feeling incredibly honoured, I feel embarrassed because I am receiving the same award extended to Saturday Mothers who have been looking for people lost by the state for years. I feel embarrassed because this award means so much. I feel embarrassed because in my mind I have done what needs to be done and that does not call for an award. I feel embarrassed because what needs to be done is still not readily done in these lands. The fact that the Armenian Genocide is still discussed behind closed doors, the denial of Kurds, their annihilation, the fact that the purging out of indigenous people of this land is celebrated every year, that you live with the shame of the fact that in a neighbourhood populated by the ever-shrinking Armenian community a school is named Talat Pasa, a road Ergenekon, a street Türk Beyi, that we feel the plight of all oppressed people in our hearts but that we have failed in dressing their wounds. The embarrassment of this all…

I feel honoured. Truly honoured. This award given in the name of dear Hrant Dink is an award dedicated to the struggle that we have maintained altogether with great determination. The fact that I have been deemed worthy of an award given to those who “work for a world free of discrimination, racism and violence, take personal risks for their ideals, use the language of peace and by doing so inspire and encourage others” honours my struggle. I feel honoured to be among friends, to be at the table of the sun. I will leave this hall with greater strength, knowing that we are not alone, with confidence. With a greater zeal for struggle in these lands, where sadly human suffering continues every day. With the clear conscience of doing what is right, being human…

Within this endless struggle I have always felt among friends, and at the table of the sun. What gave me power to resist was those friendships and the spirit of solidarity warmed by the sun. Dear friends, I thank you for nominating me for this award, for extending it to me and for giving me a place at the table of the sun.
Angie Zelter was born in 1951 in London, England.

The Snowball Civil Disobedience Campaign she initiated with two other people, grew and mobilized thousands for a common cause, and with thousands of people, she cut the fences around US military bases in the UK.

In 1996, within the scope of the Seeds of Hope-East Timor Ploughshares actions, she took part in the disarming of the BAE Hawk aircraft that would be used in the bombing of East Timor and would lead to genocide-level destruction. The action caused damage of £2 million; and prevented the export of the jet to Indonesia. In Liverpool Crown Court, the group defended the view that respect to international law and the prevention of war crimes was the right and duty of every citizen. In 1997, she was one of the six activists that initiated the Trident Ploughshares campaign that aimed to disarm the UK Trident nuclear weapons system via non-violent, direct and peaceful means. Trident Ploughshares was officially launched with an open letter it wrote in 1998 to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair for the controlled disarmament of UK nuclear weapons.

The first of many Trident Ploughshares actions with broad participation took place in August 1998. In 1999, with Ellen Moxley from the USA and Ulla Roder from Denmark, she entered the Trident Sonar testing station in Loch Goil, Scotland; where they damaged computers and electronic equipment and threw the log books, files and computer hardware overboard. After this specific action, she came to be known as a member of the Trident Three.

In 2002, she initiated the International Women’s Peace Service – Palestine; and with her co-activists at Trident Ploughshares organized Faslane 365. Campaigners carried out a one-year peaceful blockade of the Faslane naval base in Scotland. The occupation influenced the election of an anti-nuclear government in Scotland. Trident Ploughshares continues to campaign with the Scottish government for the use international law as a vehicle in nuclear disarmament despite the opposition of the UK central government. The actions of Trident Ploughshares also spread across the UK.

In protest of the closes collaboration between Sweden and NATO revealed also by leaked documents published by WikiLeaks, she initiated a campaign for Swedish troops to withdraw from Afghanistan.

In March 2012 she was arrested by South Korean police because she supported the resistance against the construction of the Jeju Naval Base on Jeju Island, declared in 2005 World Peace Island by the South Korean Government and home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

In addition to her activist work, she encouraged many people to act against their governments to prevent nuclear genocide and destroy all nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction. Since the mid-1990s, she has been arrested more than 100 times; these arrests played a significant role in creating public awareness and media interest on nuclear disarmament. She continues to use non-violent and legal methods for world peace.
Sebnem Korur Fincanci was born in 1959 in Istanbul. After graduating from the Cerrahpasa University Medical Faculty, she received specialization training in Forensic Medicine. From 1987 to 1990 she studied Classical Archaeology at the Istanbul University Faculty of Literature. She was a founding member of the Society of Forensic Medicine Specialists founded in 1992; and served as the Society’s chairperson from 1993 to 1996. She is also a founding member of the Turkish Penal Law Association.

She dedicated her professional career to the struggle against torture, and became a pioneer in this field in Turkey. In the 1990s, when torture was prevalent in Turkey and covered up by authorities, she was subjected to the oppression and obstructions of the state as she wrote articles on medical ethics and penned reports documenting torture. After her report on the defendants in the court case involving the assassination of journalist Ugur Mumcu she declared that she had been threatened by official authorities; and a secret official document demanding her dismissal was revealed. During Mehmet Agar’s term as Minister of Justice, she carried out an active struggle to prevent the Institute of Forensic Medicine from becoming a state institution where documents were systematically destroyed as in the Susurluk case.

In 1997, she became the Head of the Department of Forensic Medicine at the Istanbul University Medical Faculty. In 2004, she was removed from her position as Head of Department; in 2005 she was reinstated by an Administrative Court decree and the decision of the Higher Education Council. She was removed several times from her additional position as Chairperson of the Institute of Forensic Medicine Specialty Board; she returned to her position after winning lawsuits.

In 1996, she took part in postmortems from mass graves in the Kalesija region of Bosnia as member of the PHR team on behalf of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal. In 1999, she was among the authors of the Istanbul Protocol document recognized by the United Nations as a standard set of international guidelines for the assessment of torture; she later also lectured in various countries on the implementation of the protocol. In 2000, she took part in the international program organized by Physicians for Human Rights in South Africa, and in 2002, in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Sexual Violence Against Women Research and Handbook project.

On behalf of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture (IRTC), she travelled to Bahrain disguised as a tourist and collected tissue samples from the body of a young man whose remains were discovered at sea, claimed by the police to have drowned. She brought the samples to Turkey, and in the autopsy she carried out, determined that he had been murdered under torture in detention as his family had claimed.

She proved the torture carried out by Adil Serdar Saçan, the former Director of the Directorate of Organized Crime Branch. Her application to intervene on the grounds that her telephone had been tapped by the Ergenekon organization and that her personal information had been filed, becoming the only intervening party in the Ergenekon case.

She continues to publicize the problems of a great number of sick prisoners who require official reports from the Ministry of Justice and the Institute of Forensic Medicine; and draws attention to the importance of the Institute of Forensic Medicine being independent. Despite official reaction, she openly argues for a complete revision of the Institute of Forensic Medicine for the proper functioning of the legal system in Turkey. Although it disturbs those who hold power, since the human rights violations carried out by the state are within the scope of her task, she has not abandoned the struggle against torture, and has continued to speak the truth despite all kinds of pressure and attempts at intimidation.

She teaches at graduate and postgraduate level at the Department of Forensic Medicine at the Istanbul University Medical Faculty and at the Galatasaray University Faculty of Law, and acts as dissertation advisor at MA and PhD levels at the Istanbul University Institute of Forensic Medicine.

She has been the President of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) since 2009.