The Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent

The 2014 Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent Awarded to Erdem Gunduz, Pussy Riot and Dhondup Wangchen

NEW YORK (May 2, 2014) – The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) today announces the recipients of the 2014 Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent. The 2014 laureates are Turkish performance artist Erdem Gunduz, Russian punk protest group Pussy Riot, and imprisoned Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen.

HRF founded the Havel Prize with the endorsement of Dagmar Havlová, widow of the late poet, playwright, and statesman Václav Havel. The Prize celebrates those who, with bravery and ingenuity, unmask the lie of dictatorship by living in truth. Past laureates include Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat, Cuban civil society group the Ladies in White, North Korean democracy activist Park Sang Hak, Saudi women’s rights advocate Manal al-Sharif, and Burmese opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Erdem Gunduz, known as the “Standing Man,” is a performance artist who rose to prominence during the 2013 anti-government protests in Turkey. After Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan issued a ban on demonstration in Istanbul, Gunduz stood silently on the sealed-off Taksim Square for more than six hours, even as Turkish police tried to provoke a response from him. Unfazed, Gunduz continued his silent protest and was joined by hundreds of others, becoming a powerful symbol of the movement.

Pussy Riot is a Russian punk rock protest group of women who don colorful balaclavas and perform in public places to draw attention to the abuses of Vladimir Putin’s regime. Their music and impromptu concerts are a form of "dissident art" created to support individual liberties in the face of an increasingly authoritarian Russian state. Pussy Riot will be represented in Oslo by Maria Alyokhina, who served 21 months in Russian prison camp for performing a protest song in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.

Dhondup Wangchen is a Tibetan filmmaker imprisoned by the Chinese dictatorship on charges of subversion after producing the documentary “Leaving Fear Behind.” The film features interviews with ordinary Tibetans discussing the Beijing Olympics, the Dalai Lama, and the Chinese Communist Party. Dhondup is currently serving a six-year prison sentence, despite calls for his release by international human rights organizations. He will be honored in absentia during the ceremony

The three Havel Prize laureates will receive an artist's representation of the "Goddess of Democracy," the iconic statue erected by Chinese student leaders during the Tiananmen Square protests of June, 1989. Each sculpture embodies the spirit and literal reality of creative dissent at its finest, representing the struggle of truth and beauty against brute power. The Havel Prize laureates will also share a prize of 350,000 Norwegian Kroner.

The Havel Prize is funded jointly by grants from the Brin Wojcicki Foundation and the Thiel Foundation. The Brin Wojcicki Foundation was established by Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, and his wife Anne Wojcicki, co-founder of 23andMe, a leading personal genetics company. The Thiel Foundation, established and funded by entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel, defends and promotes freedom in all its dimensions: political, personal, and economic. Vaclav Havel was chairman of HRF from 2009 until his death in December of 2011.

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