Hrant Dink Award given to anti-torture fighter Fincancı

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Şebnem Korur Fincancı from Turkey and Angie Zelter from Britain received the International Hrant Dink Award on Sept. 15, named in honor of the assassinated Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.

The 2014 International Hrant Dink Award was presented to Fincancı and Zelter on Sept. 15, 2014, with a ceremony organized by the Hrant Dink Foundation held at the Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall in Istanbul.

The award statue was presented to Fincancı by jury members Baskın Oran and two representatives of the Saturday Mothers peace advocacy group, Hanım Tosun and İkbal Eren.

Fincancı was subjected to oppression and targeted by the state for writing articles on medical ethics and penning reports documenting torture in the 1990s, when torture was highly prevalent across Turkey and covered up by the authorities.

In 1996, she took part in post-mortems from mass graves in Bosnia’s Kalesija region as a member of the PHR team on behalf of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal. On behalf of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture (IRTC), she traveled to Bahrain disguised as a tourist and collected tissue samples from the body of a young man whose remains were discovered at sea and who the police claimed had drowned. She brought the samples to Turkey and in the autopsy she carried out it was determined that he had been murdered while under torture in detention, as his family had claimed. She also proved that torture was being carried out by Adil Serdar Saçan, the former Director of Turkey’s Directorate of Organized Crime Branch.

“I feel embarrassed to be receiving this award, because I merely try to fulfill the responsibility of being human. In addition to feeling incredibly honored, I feel embarrassed because I am receiving the same award that has previously been given to the Saturday Mothers, who have been searching for people unaccounted for by the state for years,” Fincancı said in her acceptance speech.

“I feel embarrassed because this award means so much. I feel embarrassed because in my mind, I only did what needed to be done and that does not call for an award. I feel embarrassed because what needs to be done is still not readily being done in these lands,” she added.

“The fact that the Armenian Genocide is still discussed behind closed doors; the denial of Kurds, their annihilation; the fact that the purging out of the indigenous people of this land is celebrated every year; the fact that you live with the shame of the fact that in a neighborhood populated by the ever-shrinking Armenian community, a school is named ‘Talat Paşa,’ a road is called ‘Ergenekon,’ a street is called ‘Türk Beyi’; the fact that we feel the plight of all oppressed people in our hearts but we have failed to dress their wounds. The embarrassment of this all,” she said.

The award statue was presented to Angie Zelter by the Head of the Award Committee Ali Bayramoğlu and Ziena Alhajj from Greenpeace.

In 1997, Zelter was one of the six activists who initiated the Trident Ploughshares campaign that aimed to disarm the United Kingdom’s Trident nuclear weapons system through non-violent, direct and peaceful means.

In 2002, she initiated the “International Women’s Peace Service – Palestine.” In March 2012, she supported the resistance against the construction of the Jeju Naval Base on Jeju Island, declared in 2005 as “World Peace Island” by the South Korean Government and home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Since the mid-1990s, Zelter has been arrested more than 100 times.

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