The European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded annually to a person who stands out in the defence of freedom and fundamental rights.
The prize, which amounts to around €50,000 in cash, is dedicated to the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov.
It was first awarded in 1988, to Nelson Mandela, South African hero of the struggle against apartheid, and to Anatolij Marčenko, Soviet dissident who died in 1986 in USSR prisons.
The aim of the award is to promote respect for international law and fundamental human rights, freedoms and democracy.
Nominated for the 2022 edition are:
– Volodymir Zelenskyy (nominated by both the European People’s Party and the European Conservatives and Reformists, thus obtaining two separate nominations), representing all the valiant people of Ukraine;
– the Ukrainian people (nominated by the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats together with the Renew Europe group);
– Sônia Guajajara (nominated by the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance), an indigenous activist, environmentalist and politician from Brazil, already a candidate in the 2018 presidential elections;
– the Truth Commission in Colombia (nominated by Left/GUE-NGL), created to end the conflict raging in the country;
– Shireen Abu Akleh (nominated by Grace O’Sullivan and 42 other MEPs), a US naturalised Palestinian journalist for Al Jazeera who was killed while documenting an Israeli army operation in northern Palestine, in a Jenin refugee camp;
– Julian Assange (nominated by Sabrina Pignedoli and 40 other MEPs), the founder and editor-in-chief of the news organisation WikiLeaks.
Interestingly, as many as three out of seven nominations were dedicated to Ukraine. The Russian war of aggression against the freedom of the Ukrainian people and the territorial integrity of Ukraine has deeply affected the European Union. In the collective imagination of the peoples of Europe, the defence of Ukraine is the defence of the free world against autocracy and dictatorship, it is the defence of rights against oppression. The war in Ukraine concerns us all. ECR and the parties represented in it, such as Poland’s PIS and Italy’s FDI, have supported strongly pro-Ukrainian positions in Europe and in their member states, condemning Putin’s Russia without hesitation. ECR has always supported the sanctions imposed by the EU on Russia.
Shireen Abu Akleh’s candidacy touches on another conflict, that between Israel and Palestine, which has never had a solution. In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly, in its famous Resolution 181, gave the go-ahead to a partition plan for Palestine, which envisaged the establishment of two independent states, one Jewish and the other Arab. On 14 May 1948, with the expiration of the British mandate, David Ben Gurion proclaimed the birth of the State of Israel, in that ‘Promised Land’ from which the diaspora of the Jews had departed in the first century A.D. To this day, there is no shared and definitive solution, in the Holy Land of the three great monotheistic religions no lasting peace has ever been achieved.
Another female candidate, that of Sônia Guajajara. An indigenous Brazilian leader and politician, in 2022 she was considered by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
In the weeks in which Iranian women are strenuously fighting for freedom and respect for human rights in what appears to the eyes of the Western world as a theocratic dictatorship, it is interesting that European parties have decided to focus on the lives and actions of two women who have courageously pursued their ideas.
The nominations were announced in Brussels on 26 September.
On 13 October, the names of the three finalists will be announced. On 20 October, the President of the European Parliament, Maltese Roberta Metsola, from the European People’s Party, will decide on the winner, in agreement with the leaders of the political groups. Finally, on 14 December, the Prize will be presented to the winner in Strasbourg.