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Everyone would accept a granted award with pride, yet today I am accepting this award with shame.

This award will remain in my life as a painful monument of impunity, as a reminder of an unaccounted sin.

The award I have been granted today bears the name of a good man.
The award I have been granted today bears the name of a person who was murdered.
Like everyone else living in this country, I bear the guilt and the sin as I failed to save Hrant Dink from death.
Like everyone else living in this country, I am as guilty and sinful as I failed to ensure Hrant Dink’s real perpetrators being captured.

He was murdered right before our eyes.

He did not fall victim to violence because of supporting violence, he did not fall victim to atrocity because of promoting atrocities, he did not fall victim to enmity because of fuelling enmity.
He was murdered because he supported peace and friendship.

He was murdered because he was a member of a race, a race which lost hundreds of thousands to brutal and unjust massacres; yet while without forgetting these killings and always keeping their pain inside, he did not believe that the account of those killings can ever called by new killings.

He was murdered because he wanted to build a bridge that stretches from a dark and bloody past to a future rewired with friendship.

Today, we are walking towards such a future by stepping on his body which stretches like a bridge of light in the emptiness that lie before us.

Perhaps Hrant Dink will be all alone in carrying seventy million people to a righteous future, seventy million who bears the burden of hundreds of thousands of innocent dead.

He has such an inherent power.
He was murdered for having such a power.

We do understand Hrant Dink’s importance better and better in a country where we still have massacres, murders, clashes, where we still hear the voices promoting violence and glorifying death.

He did not become one of those who try to take credit for himself out of atrocities and violence. Quite the contrary, he was chosen as a victim just because he wanted to give credit to peace out of his own self, his very existence, his soul and he took risks in this endeavour.

You are giving me an award bearing his name.

I am very grateful for your kindness, yet I do not believe that I deserve my name being written right next to his.

To become eligible for this award, I should have been able to protect him. To deserve this honour, I should have been able to make sure his murderers are found. If you allow me, I would like to take this award only as an entrustment.

Should one day in this country, a brave, honest and a dignified politician comes out to light who unveils the real perpetrators of Hrant Dink, who calls this brutal murder to an account, then I will be handing this entrustment over to him/her with great joy, right here, in front of this  crowd. This person will be the real owner of this award.

Till that day arrives, I will be keeping this award as a symbol of pain I feel for a very good man and as a symbol of a hurt conscience scarred by the failure to save him from death.

I wish this day will eventually come and until then I would like to thank you very much for your generosity in handing this entrustment to a person who does not deserve it.
I check my passport, ticket, and Turkish visa. I am ready to begin my trip to Central Asia; First London, then Istanbul and from there to Uzbekistan until I get to Japan. I study the map, and memories of my previous trips come back to me.

A year earlier I followed the Colombian mafias to Venezuela, Guatemala and my own country: Mexico. I traveled through the United States looking for the human slave market and found it next to the White House, in Chicago and in New York. I listen to the children in Cuba, and dress up as a prostitute in Dominican Republic to interview European and American sex tourists who pay 3,000 dollars for a virgin teenager.

Some years ago, I traveled to Finland, and then to St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Kiev. Later, I flew to Tbilisi, Georgia, where I came to know and respect Anna Politkovskaya, who helped me understand the complexities of the region. I passed through Azerbaijan and Armenia. I visited Tashkent and Samarkand, once one of the most beautiful cities of the Persian Empire. From Uzbekistan, I went to the border of Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. It was October, and it was cold.

As cold as when I was seven years old and every time my sister and I went out on the street our mother warned us to stay away from the “kidnapper,” an old woman, well known in our neighborhood, who robbed girls. She would entice them to approach her with candy only to snatch them away and sell them to strangers.

Forty years later, I discovered that what seemed to be a lesson taken from a Dickens’ novel had become one of the most serious problems of the twenty-first century. Society in general tends to consider the trafficking of women and girls as a throwback to another time in which “human trafficking” was a small-time business of pirates that kidnapped women to sell them to brothels and Geisha houses in faraway countries. We thought that modernization and strong global markets would eradicate such kidnappings and that the abuse of children in the “underdeveloped” world’s darkest corners would simply disappear through contact with Western laws and market economies. But today we see the exact opposite. Many countries have legalized sex slavery calling it prostitution, some governments even act as official pimps to denigrate and sell women and girls, robbing them of any chance to become anything other than objects for tourists and local clients.

For five years I traveled around the world following the trails of the mafia rings—big and small—who gain 35 billion dollars a year by selling sex slaves in local and international markets. We are witnessing a trend that considers the kidnapping, disappearance, trade, and corruption of girls and teenagers as something normal. These girls and teenagers become sexual objects for rent and for sale, while this culture encourages their human objectification as an act of freedom and progress. In a dehumanizing market economy, millions of people assume that prostitution is a minor evil. They choose to ignore that underlying prostitution are exploitation, discrimination, racism, abuse, and the exercise of organized crime’s great power on a small and large scale around the world: the biggest power of them all is wrapped in this message: “Girls and teens are worth nothing, we will let them know prostitution and pornography are their only choice to have a free erotic experience”.

This is not just another moral panic story, on the contrary, women and girls around the world taught me this lesson: if you do not have real opportunities to exercise your rights how can you choose freely?

I know my rights. I’ve survived rape, incarceration, two trials and an assassination attempt for the simple fact of exercising my freedom to be an echoer of other women’s voices. And here I am making a free choice that millions of our sisters cannot make; until we are able to walk the path together, I will keep writing. And I will do it under the warm inspiration of our deceased colleagues from around the world, those who where assassinated for their honesty and their bravery, just like Hrant Dink, whose life and death touched us all in Latin America.

Thanks to him many of us gained a better understanding of the impending need of the democratization in Turkey, his way of carrying news of developments in the Republic of Armenia helped us see a clearer view of the Armenian genocide and the complexities of the Diaspora.

The compassion Hrant had for all human beings and his congruency will not be forgotten. I stand Humble before you, I receive this award, I salute his memory, his professionalism and his legacy for freedom of expression and Human Rights.

Thank you
AHMET ALTAN
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LYDIA CACHO
AHMET ALTAN, born in 1950, studied at various secondary and high schools, entered Middle East Technical University and graduated from the Economics Department of Istanbul University. At 24, he became a journalist, working in many positions, from reporter to editor-in-chief. As a columnist, he wrote in the weekly Nokta and the daily newspapers Hürriyet, Günež, Milliyet and Yeni Yüzyżl.

His outspoken criticism of the system meant he was often tried and prosecuted and forced to leave his job; but he did not give up his struggle.

His first novel, ‘Four Seasons of Autumn’, published when he was 27, won the Grand Award of the Akademi Publishing House. His second novel ‘Trace on the Water’, 1985, was banned due to obscenity. The trial went on for two years. Some pages were adjudged to be obscene and the book’s confiscation and extermination was ordered. The book was re-published after the removal of these “nasty” passages. ‘Dangerous Tales’, 1996, became a best seller. ‘Like a Sword Wound’, 1998, won the Yunus Nadi Novel Prize. ‘Love in the Days of Rebellion’ was published in 2001, ‘To Cheat’ in 2002 and ‘The Longest Night’ in 2005.

In November 2007 he founded the newspaper Taraf with Alev Er. In an interview he explained the reason for founding Taraf as such: “If you take sides with honesty, then you can remain impartial in the face of events. What is impartiality? To remain faithful to the facts, to truth, when you report... That’s what we take sides with... We are determined to publish what other newspapers don’t or won’t publish.”

He is the current editor-in-chief of Taraf and writes the daily column ‘Hourglass’. He challenges and addresses “the army problem”, a main issue since the foundation of the Republic, questioning and criticizing military authority to facilitate the establishment of democracy. Despite ad-embargos, pressure and threats, he continues to struggle for his ideals and to set the agenda with courageous reporting. Focusing on democracy, he doesn’t hesitate to take risks and transforms the political landscape.
LYDIA CACHO was born in 1963 in Mexico City to a psychologist mother and a mechanical engineer father. Her mother, a feminist, emigrated from France to Mexico during World War II.

Since the mid-1980s, she has written extensively in newspapers and magazines on people trafficking, organized crime, drug trafficking, gender violence and official corruption. She specializes in defending women’s rights, and in the year 2000, she founded the Cancun-based Centre for Complete Assistance to Women for the victims of violence and abuse against women and children.

Her research unearthed a paedophile ring run by a Mexican businessman. In her 2005 book ‘Demons of Eden’, she exposed  the powers behind child pornography, revealing links between the paedophile ring and government officials, politicians, businessmen and drug traffickers.

Following the publication of the book, she was sued, and the Puebla governor organized a smear campaign against her. She was imprisoned, released only upon a political asylum offer from the UN Human Rights Council. She filed charges against the governor, district attorney and a judge for corruption and attempted rape in prison. She took the case to the Supreme Court of Mexico, becoming the first woman to have her case heard by this court.

She travelled the world for her book on child and women traffickers. During her research, she used hidden camera and dressed in disguise as a nun or a prostitute. She carried a GPS device so her body could be found in case she was assassinated like many other Mexican colleagues.

Her books include ‘Bite the Heart’, 2005, ‘Memories of an Infamy’, 2008, and ‘Slaves of Power’, 2010, based on interviews with girls and women trafficked and forced into prostitution.

She currently is a columnist for El Universal, the biggest newspaper in Mexico, and conducts workshops in assisting victims of human trafficking. A firm believer in freedom and equality, she continues to struggle, take risks and break new ground with proven courage.
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