The Lantos Foundation, 29 October 2015
Lantos Foundation – The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice announced today that it will award the 2015 Lantos Human Rights Prize to three courageous female leaders; Rebiya Kadeer, Irshad Manji, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. These three laureates are fearless leaders, reformers and rebels who have been willing to defy social and cultural norms to speak out against human rights abuses. The award ceremony will be held in Washington, DC on December 10, 2015. It will be open to the press and coverage is invited.
“The Lantos Foundation is proud to honor Rebiya Kadeer, Irshad Manji, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali for their courage and towering moral strength,” said Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation. “All three laureates have faced down personal danger to stand up for the vulnerable and persecuted. They have eloquently advocated for the fundamental freedoms that are the sole guarantors of the rights of all.”
Rebiya Kadeer is an internationally recognized human rights leader who serves as President of the World Uyghur Congress and has earned the title of the “Mother of All Uyghurs” for her tireless advocacy for the rights of the oppressed Muslims of China. Kadeer rose from poverty to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in China and has used her wealth to lift up other Uyghur women through the 1,000 Mothers movement and other philanthropic endeavors. Her peaceful struggle for the dignity and basic rights of the Uyghur people led to her six year imprisonment by the Chinese government. Since her exile to the United States, Kadeer has become the recognized global leader of the Uyghur people and an inspiring example of a faithful Muslim woman who leads her people.
Irshad Manji is a bestselling author, award winning documentary film maker, and educator who has been a fearless advocate for a reformist approach to Islam. Manji is the founder of the Moral Courage Project, which seeks to inspire individuals to exhibit the moral courage required to do the right thing in the face of fear. Manji has modeled this integrity and bravery in her own life. In the face of repeated death threats, she has refused to abandon the faith she loves while eloquently arguing for reforms that will open a path towards reconciliation between faith and freedom. Irshad has received numerous awards, and has been glowingly described as gutsy, audacious, bold, and brilliant by voices ranging from the New York Times, to the Jarkarta Post, to Oprah Winfrey.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a survivor of childhood abuse and violence, including female genital mutilation (FGM), fled a forced marriage and sought asylum in the Netherlands. There, she completed her education and rose from being a maid and translator to an elected member of the Dutch Parliament. In 2004, Theo Van Gogh, her collaborator on a film critical of the treatment of women in Islam, was assassinated in broad daylight and Hirsi Ali was forced into hiding in the face of death threats. She then moved to the United States and has since been an outspoken opponent of child marriage, FGM and honor violence. She established the AHA Foundation to combat these abuses against girls and women and to argue unflinchingly that no culture, tradition, or religion can be permitted to justify violence against women or girls. Hirsi Ali is also a determined defender of liberal democracy and has been hailed for her intellect, candor, and courage in confronting inconvenient and uncomfortable truths. She is a bestselling author, and has been named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine.
The Lantos Foundation established the Lantos Human Rights Prize in 2009 to honor and bring attention to heroes of the human rights movement. It is awarded annually to an individual or individuals that best exemplify the Foundation’s mission, namely to be a vital voice standing up for the values of decency, dignity, freedom and justice in every corner of the world. Former recipients of the Lantos Prize include His Holiness the Dalai Lama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Israeli President Shimon Peres, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, Rwandan humanitarian Paul Rusesabagina and Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng.
The prize also serves to commemorate the late Congressman Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to the U.S. Congress and a prominent advocate for human rights during his nearly three decades as a U.S. Representative.
Additional details about the award ceremony will be announced shortly.