The European Parliament recently (19 September) announced nominations for its prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought that is awarded annually. The prize aims to honor outstanding individuals who fight fanaticism, oppression, and intolerance. The EU Parliament awards the prize at its formal sitting held in Strasbourg in mid-December, presumably on 10 December, which is the day on which the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948.
This year, nominees include the Congolese doctor, Denis Mukwege, who established a hospital to help thousands of women raped by militants and soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Doctor Mukwege has been nominated for the Nobel Prize of Peace for a several times. Among other nominees are a law professor, two Iraqi religious leaders, an Azerbaijani human rights defender, and Ukrainian pro-Western Euromaidan activist. The two Iraqi nominees, Mahmud Al’ Asali and Louis Raphael Sako, both combat anti-Christian and anti-Yazidi persecution in the country. Mr Asali was killed two months ago. The list of nominees also includes Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Dutch-Somalian politician, who received capital punishment for his criticism of Islam.
Tha Sakharov prize is named after the 1975 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov (1921-1989) who constructed the Soviet hydrogen bomb. Troubled by the implications of his invention for the future of the mankind, he started raising awareness of the dangers of the nuclear arms race during the Cold War. His efforts were crowned by the signing of the 1963 nuclear ban treaty. In the Soviet Union, Sakharov was considered a subversive dissent. In the past, the Sakharov prize was awarded to exceptional personalities such as Nelson Mandela or Kofi Annan. Last year, Pakistani teenager, Malala Yousafzai won the prize thanks to her campaign to ensure the right to education for all boys and girls in her country. She became well-known after she had been shot in the head by a member of the Taliban.