BCHR's Acting President Maryam Al-Khawaja Awarded The Stieg Larsson Prize 2012
11 Oct 2012 The Stieg Larsson Prize 2012 is awarded to Maryam Al-Khawaja for her courageous struggle for democracy and human rights. With the internet and social media as a tool, and through untiring activism and the power of the word she turns the spotlight on injustices in her home country. In spite of threats and harassment against herself and her family she continues to work for a tolerant and more democratic state of Bahrain. Her achievements are entirely in the spirit of Stieg Larsson. ABOUT MARYAM AL-KHAWAJA
Maryam was born in Syria since her family was exiled from Bahrain, an island country near the western shores of the Persian Gulf, at the time. Her father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, is a prominent Bahraini human rights activist. Maryam’s family relocated to Denmark when she was two, where she was granted political asylum and eventually Danish citizenship. The family moved back to Bahrain in 2001 following a general amnesty by the King.
In 2002 her father co-founded and headed the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), a non-profit non-governmental organization. The aim of the BCHR is “to promote democracy and human rights in accordance with international norms” through “advocacy, training, workshops, seminars, media campaigns and reporting to UN mechanisms and international NGOs”.
Maryam and her elder sister, Zainab, began their work as human rights activists at an early age, as volunteers at the centre. In October 2008, aged 21, Maryam was invited to testify before the US Congressional Human Rights Commission on the plight of the Shiite population in Bahrain. In 2009 Maryam graduated from the University of Bahrain with a degree in English Literature and American Studies. She then spent a year at Brown University in the US on a Fulbright scholarship. Upon her return to Bahrain in 2010, she was unable to work due to her status as a dissident, so she began working full-time at the BCHR. Maryam became BCHR’s international liaison and deputy head.
In August 2010, amid a worsening crackdown on civil society organizations and human rights activists that saw around 500 people detained, Maryam left for London to avoid the possibility of arrest. She returned just as the Arab Spring came to Bahrain.
On February 14, 2011, days after the fall of Mubarak in Egypt, protesters occupied the Pearl Square roundabout in Bahrain’s capital Manama, where a tent city sprang up reminiscent of Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Maryam was a front-line witness to these protests and police attempts to subdue them. She became a prolific Twitter user, gaining a large following, and became one of the best-known voices of the Bahraini uprising.
During this crackdown Maryam again left Bahrain, her family decided she could best promote BCHR’s work from abroad. She began traveling constantly to talk at universities, NGOs and international institutions. Maryam al-Khawaja is now based in Denmark.
PROGRAM November 8th Press Conference with Maryam al-Khawaja, Stockholm Discussion at the Swedish Institute, Stockholm
November 9th Award Ceremony and Lecture with Maryam al-Khawaja, at Kulturhuset, Stockholm
November 12-14th Human Rights Days, the Swedish Fair, Gothenburg Key Note Speaker and Lecture
To attend the Press Conference or Award Ceremony, contact Malin Nasiell. Co-organizer: the Swedish Institute, Civil Rights Defenders and Reporters Without Borders
CONTACT Press Contact The Stieg Larsson Prize Malin Nasiell Phn. +46-76-109 89 32 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Stieg Larsson Estate Magdalena Hedlund email@example.com
The Jury, Chairman Daniel Poohl firstname.lastname@example.org
Norstedts Publishing House Eva Gedin email@example.com