Exiled Syrians film producer Orwa Nyrabia and political cartoonist Ali Farzat were smiling and making jokes in Copenhagen with good reason. They each received the Danish Poul Lauritzen human rights award and 10,000 euros each for their work on human rights and political freedom in Syria.
With the ongoing violence in Syria, the PL Foundation sought to honour Syrians who still fight by nonviolent means, explained Sune Christiani on International Media Support’s home page.
One of the most famous political cartoonists in the Arab world, Ali Farzat has previously been banned from entering Iraq, Jordan and Libya because of his caricatures. He was kidnapped in August 2011 in Damascus and was subsequently beaten, burned and had his hands broken.
“I am stronger today than before the attack,” says Farzat, who now lives in exile in Kuwait where he works for the newspaper Al-Watan.
Orwa Nyrabia and his wife Diana el-Jeiroudi founded Proaction Film in 2002, the first independent film production company in Syria producing documentaries dealing with social justice and gender issues. The couple also founded the DOX BOX film festival in 2008, which quickly became the most significant international documentary film festival in the region.
Orwa Nyrabia was arrested in August 2012 by Syrian security and held in a prison for 22 days after attempting to board a flight to Cairo.
Only asked for freedom
Accepting their awards in Copenhagen, Farzat and Nyrabia thanked the foundation and encouraged further support for the Syrian people:
“Syria needs you to stand by its side for its freedom and democracy. The Syrian revolution never asked for money or food. It only asked for freedom. And I assure you that the Syrian revolution was victorious on the very first day fear was overcome by the Syrian people,” said Ali Farzat.
“We decided to honour two people who have worked tirelessly for political freedom long before the war started, and now from their exile,” said Poul Søgaard, chairman of the PL Foundation. Established by Danish merchant Poul Lauritzen, the foundation aims to support people and activities that work in compliance with the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
On the occasion, the current affairs programme ‘Horisont’ of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation produced an hour-long documentary programme which profiled artists and journalists fighting for freedom of expression. The programme was produced with support from IMS.
International Media Support – 10 December 2012:
Exiled Syrians honoured with human rights award