Maryam al-Khawaja, acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, accepted the Rafto Prize in Bergen on Sunday on behalf of the center, but said she wasn’t the one who should be on the stage receiving the accolades. Rather, she said, it was “the people on the streets of Bahrain who are the unnamed heroes.”
The center she now leads, however, was awarded the Rafto Prize for its “long and courageous fight for human rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of association in Bahrain.” In awarding the prize to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, the Bergen-based Rafto Foundation stated that it was “turning the spotlight on the systematic violations of human rights in a region where abuse is too often met with silence from western governments.”
The president of the center, Nabeel Rajab, is currently in jail for having “encouraged illegal gatherings.” Al-Khawaja read excerpts from a letter he wrote as part of her acceptance speech, in which he told of the “brutal violations … against peaceful Bahrainis while the whole world continues to stay silent.”
The prize winners, also those absent, were honoured in Bergen, though, with a traditional torchlight parade Sunday evening. The center also received a diploma and USD 20,000 in prize money.