Polish refugee worker and Kurdish defender receive Paul Grüninger award 2023

The Paul Grüninger Foundation awarded Polish refugee worker Paula Weremiuk and Kurdish politician Ayşe Gökkan, who is in prison in Turkey, the 2023 Grüninger Recognition Prize for Humanity and Courage 2023. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/845EA081-C3DB-705C-E6FC-1BA88858803E] The award ceremony took place on at the Palace Cultural Center in St. Gallen. Paula Weremiuk from Narewka on the Polish-Belarusian border […]

The Paul Grüninger Foundation awarded Polish refugee worker Paula Weremiuk and Kurdish politician Ayşe Gökkan, who is in prison in Turkey, the 2023 Grüninger Recognition Prize for Humanity and Courage 2023. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/845EA081-C3DB-705C-E6FC-1BA88858803E]

The award ceremony took place on at the Palace Cultural Center in St. Gallen.

Paula Weremiuk from Narewka on the Polish-Belarusian border works as a teacher during the day and as a refugee aid worker in the Bialowieza forest at night. According to the Paul Grüninger Foundation, a refugee drama of enormous proportions has been taking place there since 2021.

Paula Weremiuk searches for people in need in the inaccessible areas of Bialowieza, providing them with clothing, food, sleeping bags and the most basic necessities, writes the Paul Grüninger Foundation. The Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenka is forcing thousands of refugees from the Middle East and Africa across the border to Poland, where they are met with strong political rejection.

At the border, in the primeval forest of Bialowieza, there is often brutal violence, abuse, rape and repeated deaths. The refugees, including women and small children, are helplessly abandoned to their fate in the inaccessible terrain and are chased back and forth across the border by the authorities. Refugee helpers are being harassed and criminalized, the press release continues.

Ayşe Gökkan’s award was accepted by her lawyer, Berfin Gökkan. The lawyer read out a letter from Ayşe Gökkan written in Kurdish: “I greet you with the warmth of the sun and the enthusiasm of Jin-Jiyan-Azadî. As a member of the Movement of Free Women, I accept this award on behalf of thousands of struggling Kurdish women. There are many fighting women in prison in Turkey.”

The foundation justified the awarding of the recognition prize of 10,000 francs to the Kurdish feminist and human rights defender Ayşe Gökkan for her civil society commitment and her criminalization:

“Ayşe Gökkan has particularly distinguished herself as a journalist and as an activist for women’s rights. For almost forty years, she has been writing newspaper columns against racial and gender discrimination, speaking at national and international podiums and seminars, leading workshops on the topic of gender inequality and taking part in peaceful demonstrations in this context.

From 2009 to 2014, Ayşe Gökkan was mayor of the Kurdish city of Nusaybin, which lies on the border between Turkey and Syria. When Turkey began to build a wall against refugees between Nusaybin and the neighbouring Syrian town of Qamishlo, the mayor protested against this “wall of shame” with, among other things, a sit-in strike.

Because of her civil society commitment, Ayşe Gökkan has been arrested in Turkey more than eighty times, subjected to more than two hundred investigations and, in 2021, sentenced to more than 26 in a grotesque court case based on the statements of a single “secret witness” for membership in a “terrorist organization”.

She is a victim of the criminalization of the political opposition in Turkey. Ayşe Gökkan is in prison, her sentence has not yet been confirmed by the Turkish Court of Cassation, and proceedings are also pending before the European Court of Human Rights.”

https://anfenglish.com/women/jailed-kurdish-politiciangokkan-awarded-paul-gruninger-foundation-s-recognition-prize-70380

This post was originally published on Hans Thoolen on Human Rights Defenders and their awards.


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