The Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent

The 2015 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent Awarded to Girifna, Sakdiyah Ma’ruf, and El Sexto

NEW YORK (April 15, 2015) – The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) today announces the recipients of the 2015 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent. The 2015 laureates are the Sudanese nonviolent resistance movement Girifna, Indonesian stand-up comedian Sakdiyah Ma’ruf, and Cuban graffiti artist and activist El Sexto. They will be honored in a ceremony during the 2015 Oslo Freedom Forum on Wednesday, May 27 at 16:00 CET.

Girifna, Arabic for “we are fed up,” is a nonviolent resistance movement founded in 2010 by pro-democracy youth activists. Thousands of Girifna members work together to monitor state crackdowns on protests and defend dissidents. Girifna members are a constant target of Omar al-Bashir’s decades-long dictatorship, and continue to play an important role in Sudan.

“While the international press focuses its attention on Sudan’s history of armed conflict, Girifna has challenged the al-Bashir regime in novel ways—from producing humorous commercials to teaching citizens the art of nonviolent protest—and the Havel Prize recognizes their oft-overlooked struggle,” said prize committee Chairman Thor Halvorssen.

Sakdiyah Ma’ruf is a stand-up comedian from Indonesia whose comic routine advocates for individual rights and challenges Islamic fundamentalism. She grew up watching U.S.-based comedians and decided to use the same medium to talk about issues plaguing her own country. Television producers have asked her to censor her jokes, but Ma’ruf, who believes comedy mirrors a culture’s hypocrisy, has refused to be silenced.

“Sakdiyah Ma’ruf is marshaling the use of parody to challenge oppression and extremism—no small risk for a woman in Muslim culture. She is an inspiration,” said Amnesty International Norway Secretary General John Peder Egenæs.

El Sexto, whose real name is Danilo Maldonado, is a Cuban graffiti artist and activist whose public work has turned him into a formidable dissident, evidenced by the ongoing repression he suffers at the hands of the Castro dictatorship. This past December, El Sexto was arrested on his way to put on a performance art piece called "Rebelión en la Granja," with two pigs decorated with the names “Fidel” and “Raúl.” El Sexto was charged with contempt and remains in prison awaiting trial.

“Through his art, El Sexto reveals the intolerance of the Cuban regime,” said former Romanian President Emil Constantinescu. “A government fearful of an artist and his work has a truly fragile grasp on power and manifests its tyrannical nature,” he concluded.

The three Havel Prize Laureates will receive an artist’s representation of the “Goddess of Democracy,” the iconic statue erected by Chinese students 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 laureates will also share a prize of 350,000 Norwegian kroner.

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, Russian punk protest group Pussy Riot, North Korean democracy activist Park Sang Hak, Saudi women’s rights advocate Manal al-Sharif, and Burmese opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Havel Prize is jointly funded 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. Václav Havel was chairman of HRF from 2009 until his death in December of 2011.

The Havel Prize ceremony will be broadcast live online at oslofreedomforum.com beginning at 16:00 CET on Wednesday, May 27. The event will take place at Oslo’s Nye Theater. Registration is open to the public, please email secretariat@havelprize.org for more information. Please follow @HavelPrize, @HRF, and @OsloFF on Twitter for updates.

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. We believe that all human beings are entitled to freedom of self-determination, freedom from tyranny, the rights to speak freely, to associate with those of like mind, and to leave and enter their countries. Individuals in a free society must be accorded equal treatment and due process under law, and must have the opportunity to participate in the governments of their countries; HRF’s ideals likewise find expression in the conviction that all human beings have the right to be free from arbitrary detainment or exile and from interference and coercion in matters of conscience. HRF does not support nor condone violence. HRF’s International Council includes human rights advocates George Ayittey, Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Garry Kasparov, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Ramón J. Velásquez, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.

For further information about the Havel Prize, click here