|       |   
I thank you very, very much. This is the second award I've received this year.
I suppose when a person is thrown into jail, regardless of being 60 years old, to "tame" him down, he gets a lot of awards. I never got any awards for my adventures in jail when I was in my 20s; nobody does. Of course, if you continued to go into jail at the age of 60, that's also a sign that you aren't going to settle down and be tamed. All joking aside, I thank you very much. I feel more honored by this award than any I've received in my life; it's the one I'll always want the most. And there's one reason for this: That it's the Hrant Dink Award.

I feel this honor not only because I knew and worked together with Hrant. This name, just like the struggle for human rights, charges you with a mission with no end. It's really true; eleven years have passed since Hrant was killed in 2007, and the perpetrators are still being judged. Despite all his lawyers' efforts, we're still far from exposing all of the true perpetrators. And lets say that happens. Will the whole truth be laid bare? That will lead to a continuing mission: To expose all of Turkey's murders, conspiracies, assassinations, massacres, bombs, and a deep state identified with no adjectives but by bombs, the state itself, and to convict it. It's not over! There's an account to settle for living and being killed as a minority in Turkey. There's the Armenian genocide; there's the racism and discrimination that have become nearly part of our everyday lives as Turks. There is getting the sentence, "Ayse throw the ball to Agop" in elementary school readers.
Naturally, it's no coincidence that Hrant Dink's name is synonymous with the struggle for rights in Turkey.
"The award I am receiving today bears the name of a good person. The award I am receiving today bears the name of a person who was murdered." This characterization, with which I wholeheartedly agree, is by Ahmet Altan, in his 2011 International Hrant Dink Award acceptance speech. Ahmet Altan has been in prison since September 10, 2016!
Ismail Besikçi, who received the award in 2012, spent his time in prison in a way above and beyond any normal person and any lifespan. The "Saturday Mothers," who received the award in 2013, after being targeted by the Minister of the Interior, are trying to continue their quest for truth and justice; a quest they have pursued for 700 weeks while being arrested, assaulted, banned and criminalized.

And as for the other recipients:
After Sebnem Korur Fincanci received the award, she went into prison like me for her solidarity with Özgür Gündem; fortunately she's out. KAOS GL... All manner of LGBTI+ demonstrations and events in Ankara are forbidden. Their Pride Marches, which drew wide participation with no incidents despite the presence of security forces, can no longer be held. It should be added that KAOS GL founder Ali Erol was imprisoned for a week and is still out under judicial control. Tahir Elçi, chairman of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, was killed in 2015. The Bar continues its struggle for justice for him; they are trying to pierce the shield of impunity that is the rule in Turkey for this and similar murders, as they are for the still-blockaded Sur neighborhood.
Eren Keskin, beloved to all of us, is facing not only a fine of hundreds of thousands of lira, but hundreds of years in prison as well. So it's safe to say that we've become a society of people who have gone into prison and received the award, and received the award and gone into prison. And that the awards are right on the mark.

But this goes hand in hand with the steady rise in nationalism, fascism and racism that are a disease in Turkey and in the world.
In the 20th century, human rights and democracy gained in esteem through regret for genocides and world wars; now in the 21st century, they seem to have lost this esteem. Wars, migrations brought about by wars and poverty, increasing xenophobia in the west, enmity toward foreigners and nationalist, racist regimes intolerant of differences -traditionally attributed to human nature but actually originating in Europe- are becoming as frequent in the West as they are in the East. More and more, fascist-leaning administrations that try to eliminate diversity in their societies are constricting and smothering the civilian sector in which democratic politics and human rights can flourish and grow. In such an environment, politics itself becomes impossible.
Just as in Turkey. Institutions of justice, which should be our assurance against such practices, have been completely derailed. One by one, the mechanisms that provide protection to the individual against the state are being demolished.
We live in a country that is trying to criminalize every humane, democratic and peaceable demand.
Like justice, truth is also being overtaken by tyranny. It's becoming difficult to talk about truth or its power; and easier to talk about the power of beliefs. We live in a Turkey dominated by whatever those in power want people to believe. Truth is now dictated by those with the power to enforce belief in what they want people to believe, and justice functions in complete subjection to this power; which is to say, it does not function. Yet despite this negativity, those who pursue truth have not ceased to exist. They do not become exhausted. They do not allow societal memory to form in the way dictated by those in power; they do not allow justice to function like a scourge of the administration, or the obstruction of truth. Whatever their jobs and professions, they are defenders of human rights.

I am here today because certain people stand guard at the Human Rights Association branch office so that there may be an application every day. I am here today because there are lawyers who go to the door of the police station or security when people are arrested. There are academicians who give their signature so that people will not die; people who gather for a pride parade despite all oppression, obstruction and bans; people who go and provide support to the Saturday people in Istanbul, Diyarbakir, Cizre and Batman. There are those who write news about them, who tally the violations, who seek justice, who try to hold people to account. There are those who reject the mass selfishness called nationalism. Who resist the spirit of the times. Who refuse to submit to the spreading mediocrity of evil, and listen to the voice of their conscience. I am here because even though the civilian is sentenced to death against this policy of blood and death, there are people who raise their voices for peace. It is to them that I owe my presence here, and my receipt of this award today. To the Leman Yurtsevers, the Gülseren Yoleris, the Raci Bilicis, the Filiz Karakuss, the Sevim Salihoglus, the Ümit Biçers; to them, and the hundreds and thousands of people like them. To all those who make the struggle for human rights their lives.

This award is the result of a collective struggle. I share it with all my colleagues at the Memory Center, with Emel Ataktürk Sevimli with whom I have made the most progress, my co-director at work and my director at home Meltem Aslan, my friend Osman Kavala who has been held in prison with no trial or indictment, and everyone who is in jail as a result of their struggle for rights.

I would like to believe that I'm receiving this award because I'm a good person.

It is the struggle for human rights that will light the torch of hope against hopelessness, not only in Turkey but in the entire world. "There is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in.

In the name of hope, I accept this award.
When we in Mwatana first received an Email saying that Mwatana has been chosen for the International Hrant Dink Award, we felt happy and proud to be chosen by a respectful Foundation that is based in Turkey and work hard for Human Rights and Justice. In spite of the very big differences on the situation between Yemen and Turkey, we still share many similar difficulties as civil society. Also, when we read more about Hrant himself and each person in the Jury, we even felt happier and prouder. So, thank you. I want to say congratulations to Hrant and Happy Birthday to his soul. With such family, team, friends and lovers he can't be dead. Yesterday and today, I had the chance to know more about him, about his values and his great influence in many people, honestly, I couldn't stop thinking of my father. The peaceful academic and politician man who worked all his life for the democratic, civil and justice state. He was assassinated in November 2014 while walking in the street, but the war in Yemen, the crazy toll of death, deprived us of celebrating his history, values and memories as he deserves.

Ladies and gentlemen, I came to you form a country where more than 22 million people need humanitarian aid and protection. This is almost all of us. Exactly - three-quarters of us -. I came to you from a country were 18 million people are food insecure and 8.4 million of these people do not know how they will obtain their next meal. Millions of Yemenis do not have access to safe drinking water. Treatable and preventable illnesses become a death sentence when local health services are not working and it is impossible to travel outside the country. Three quarters of displaced people are women and children and about 2 million children are out of school. 2,500 schools have been destroyed or are not being used for their original purpose.
We can summarize all of this, and much more of this in one famous sentence. Yemen is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. However, we should always add to this sentence, that is not a natural crisis. It is a man-made crisis, a crisis caused by conflict.
As the conflict enters its fourth year in Yemen, horrible violations and war crimes have been committed against civilians and civilian objects. Unlawful airstrikes, blockade, indiscriminate shelling, arbitrary detention, forced disappearance, torture, attacking schools and hospitals, landmines, child recruitment, and much more. If you are now asking who exactly committed these violations in Yemen, I will answer, who didn't?
It is the Saudi and Emirati led coalition and forces and armed groups loyal to it, Houthi and ex-president Saleh armed groups, government of president Hadi and forces and armed groups loyal to it. Also, countries like, the US, the UK and France who are fueling the war by selling weapons to some countries which are involved in serious violations in Yemen, particularly, Saudi Arabia and Untied Arab Emirates. whenever you hear about war in Yemen and all parties to the conflict, you should always remember that there are no heroes, there are only criminals and victims.

In spite of all of this, hope is always there, and peace in Yemen is always possible. It is the desire of most Yemeni ordinary people whom until now refuse to be part of the conflict. They are still civilians and have a huge desire to live.
Those people are our strength in Mwatana. We work hard because we believe that they deserve better life and they deserve justice. It is not easy to be an independent Human rights NGO in a middle of armed groups and your neighbor is Saudi Arabia. However, it is more difficult not to do anything for civilians in such situation. We choose Human Rights to be our road toward accountability, justice and peace. Documenting violations, providing legal assistance, and doing lots of advocacy seems like digging the wall in a middle of a horrible war. However, we feel that our honest work can shake the wall of war and one day it will collapse. Peace will come one day and Mwatana will keep working for a society where justice and full access to rights is guaranteed to everyone.
Let me take you quickly to the beginning of Mwatana. We had been trying to get the legal permission for Mwatana since 2007, and because of our human right work as individuals the ministry of social affairs never gave it to us. Finally, in 2013 we got the official permit for Mwatana and by then, we were only two. Abdulrasheed Alfaqih - my colleague and husband - and me. Today, we are a big family. We are 70. 70 independent, neutral, and brave men and women. Our main office is in Sana'a but we also have field team all over Yemen. They are all youth. I might be the oldest.
From here I want to say thank you to each one of them. Thank you for the hard work you are doing in such a very difficult situation. Thank you for being patient in front of all the hate campaigns which largely affect all of you. Thank you for being brave and strong in face of the risk you face daily in your lives and work. Mwatana deserved this award because of all of you.
I am really sad that our colleague Kamal Al Shawish , Mwatana's field research assistant, will not be celebrating this day with us because he has been detained in Hodaidah and forcibly disappeared by Houthi armed group since 14 August 2018. One month and one day until now.
Yesterday when I listened to the representative of the great turkey gathering called (Saturday mothers), I felt very sad. I hugged her and didn't know what to say. It is always difficult to say anything for those whose loved once are forcibly disappeared. I know what that mean. Thousands of Yemenis know what that mean. Arbitrary detention, forced disappearance, and torture is one of the heaviest files in Yemen and all authorities since many years until today are involved in this file. Mothers, wives, and women in general are the most affected by these horrible violations. In Yemen also, there is a group of great women called (mothers of abductees).
We at Mwatana are working very hard to push for releasing those who are detained and disappeared all over Yemen and we have lawyers in 7 governorates who are daily following many cases. In spite of all the darkness, there are some successful stories that encourage us to go forward.

At the end of my speech I demand freedom all those who are arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared in Yemen, Turkey and all over the world.
MURAT ÇELIKKAN
   |   
MWATANA ORGANIZATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Murat Çelikkan, was born in 1957 in Ankara. He studied at Middle East Technical University, Department of Management. He was imprisoned twice, first in 1978 because of his socialist activities, and again in 1980 in the operations during the coup which targeted all opposition groups. He was exonerated in both cases.

He began working as a journalist in 1979 with the newspaper Demokrat, and continued at Nokta in 1983. He joined the Human Rights Association which was working to repair the severe damage to society brought about by the 1980 military coup. Working in the Association's Istanbul branch, he prepared reports on freedom of expression and association, and torture crimes.

In 1990, he began working with the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, which was formed to support torture victims. Representing the Foundation in meetings abroad, he spoke about the state of human rights in Turkey. That same year, together with a group of intellectuals, writers, politicians, journalists and activists, he joined the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly (known today as the Citizens Assembly), which works in the areas of democracy and pluralism, and served for many years on its Board of Directors. He was among the founders of the Refugee Legal Aid Program which was Turkey's first civil society project working on the issue of refugees and continues today as an independent institution called the Refugee Rights Center. In 1995, he joined the founding staff of Amnesty International Turkey, and served for many years as a journalist, editor, editor-in-chief, columnist and director of publications for several magazines and newspapers. He wrote articles about human rights, democracy, social struggles, the Kurdish issue, identities and freedoms, and taught journalism classes and seminars at universities and various other ventures. He also took part in the establishment and projects of the Foundation for Social Studies, Culture and the Arts, the Peace Congress and the Peace Foundation.

Since 2000 he has conducted projects focusing on the Kurdish problem, peace and coming to terms with the past. In 2011, he and a group of activists formed the Truth Justice Memory Center, the goal of which is to bring to light the rights violations experienced during wartime and under authoritarian administrations, contribute to the settlement of this past from a 'transitional period justice' perspective, and conduct legal efforts to allow groups subjected to rights violations to find justice. As co-director and manager of the Center's communications program, he conducted projects to achieve recognition of human rights violations and the crime of 'forced disappearances,' and strengthen collective memory around these issues.

Due to his support to the campaign launched by the newspaper Özgür Gündem, which had been closed by a decree law, by serving as the paper's chief editor for a day on 28 May 2016, he was sentenced to 18 months in jail on 16 May 2017. After turning himself in to Kirklareli E-Type Closed Prison on 14 August, he was released on probation on 21 October 2017. In 2018, he received the human rights award presented annually by the Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders .
Mwatana Organization for Human Rights was established in 2013 by Radya al-Mutavakel and Abdulrashid al-Fakih in order to defend and protect human rights in Yemen. In this country, where the closure of air, land and sea ports have led to great difficulty in providing humanitarian aid as well as vital necessities such as food, medicine and fuel, and human rights violations such as forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and the oppression of human rights defenders are rife, the Organization carries out field visits and studies, observation and documentation work with an independent team of young women and men in order to determine and put an end to such violations, and produce accurate, impartial information regarding them. In the light of the data collected, they carry out legal evaluations in accordance with international human rights law, conduct lobbying in order for them to be accepted and put into practice.

As it supports victims of human rights violations, it works to ensure that those responsible are identified and brought to justice, and to develop legislation and policies to prevent these violations from being repeated. Using films, brochures and social media, it works to raise public awareness of rights, and train specialists in the area of human rights. It plays a very important role in informing international public opinion on what is happening in Yemen.

The fuse war was lit in September 2014 when an armed group of Houthis captured the capital of San'a and began advancing toward the country's second-largest city of Aden. In response to this, an international coalition under the leadership of Saudi Arabia attacked Houthi forces by air in March 2015. The Organization has provided documentation of human rights violations occurring during this ongoing armed conflict. In the civil war, which the United Nations has identified as "the world's worst humanitarian crisis," forces led by the United States and Saudi Arabia as well as Houthi attacks have killed thousands of civilians, women and children, injured countless more, and destroyed hospitals, homes, parks, marketplaces and schools. The Organization has documented these attacks and destruction and made it known to the public. In accordance with the Ottawa Treaty which Yemen signed in September 1998, it has demanded and continues working for the cessation of the use of land mines by Houthi forces, the detection of mine fields, the destruction of mines in stockpiles, the cleaning of mines still buried, and the payment of reparations to victims of the mines. It has worked to research and document the situation of journalists who disappeared in the course of duty, or were arbitrarily arrested. The reports it has prepared are used as a reference by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

In a time when newly organizing civil society organizations in Yemen were silenced within the political polarization that began forming in 2011; when the country lost its independence as its capital Sana'a was captured by the Houthis in 2014, followed by the March 2015 military intervention by Saudi-led coalition forces; and a smear campaign was whipped up against independent human rights organizations by the conflicting sides social media and private networks in order to foment public bias against them, it has continued its work without interruption. In this environment, where the right to travel is severely limited, it has actively used its only remaining channel, the social media, in order to share reports of human rights violations in the country.
    |