ISTANBUL — The ninth International Hrant Dink Award was presented on Friday, September 15th during an award ceremony held at the Istanbul Lütfi Kirdar International Convention and Exhibition Centre. This year’s awards were granted to lawyer Eren Keskin, who raises human rights violations in the agenda of Turkey and the international community for many years by taking all the risk, and to artist Ai Weiwei, who draws attention to inequality and human rights violations throughout the world via his works of art.
The award ceremony was hosted by Ece Dizdar and the opening speech was made by the President of Hrant Dink Foundation, Rakel Dink. During her speech, Dink also referred to the ones who got in jail for expressing their thoughts, and concluded her words by saluting the human rights defenders who were detained and arrested on July 5th.
The award ceremony started with Aysenur Kolivar’s performance of ‘Da im Yusuf Orti’, a traditional Hamshentsi song. Brenna MacCrimmon, Muammer Ketencoglu, women from Sayat Nova Choir, Helesa and Dalepe Nena also took the stage during the night.
2017 awardees were announced at the end of the award ceremony.
Ai Weiwei was born in Beijing in 1957. After the Cultural Revolution, he returned to Beijing. He studied animation at Beijing Film Academy. In 1983 he went to New York to continue his arts education. He left school and made a living by painting portraits on the street. In 1993 he returned to China. In 2008, after the Szechuan Earthquake he visited the region and realized that the government did not provide factual information on the disaster. Creating a ‘Citizens’ Investigation’ website, he released information on faulty construction and sub-standard materials used in schools which caused the death of countless people, shared stories of students who had perished, and published articles about the earthquake during the investigation process. The site was closed by official decree. In 2010 a demolition order was issued for his newly built studio in Shanghai, where he wanted to teach architecture classes. He was ordered to be placed under house arrest; although the order was rescinded the next day, it was followed by attempts to prevent him from leaving the country. In 2011 he was apprehended. His studio was searched, materials confiscated, co-workers detained. He was held for three months. Since 2015 he uses his art installations on the flight from Middle East to Europe, to draw the world’s attention to refugees’ struggle to survive.
Ai Weiwei and Eren Keskin received their awards from the jury members Murathan Mungan and Ahmet Özmen representing Diyarbakir Bar Association.