Presentation of Geneva Summit 2016 Women’s Rights Award with Anne Brasseur

Anne Brasseur, former President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, awards Vian Dakhil and Dr. Jan Ilhan Kizilhan the Geneva Summit Women’s Rights Award at the 8th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks.

On the threat of terrorism:

“The hideous terrorist attacks that targeted and continue to target innocent life represent a great danger. All forms of extremism leading to violence need to be strongly condemned, refuted and fought against. But the fight against terror should not become a pretext for giving up on our rights and freedoms.”

On international trust:

“The major challenges we have to face can only be tackled by looking across national borders and working together.”

“I hope that in 2016 who will be able to find courage and take our responsibility to move towards sustainable solutions, restoring trust and safeguarding the international order.”

On democracy in Europe:

“Genuine democracy is not a dictatorship of the majority. Democracy is a system that does not exist without the respect of the rule of law and the rights of minorities.”

“Europe without freedom, solidarity, trust and democracy, is a Europe without values. Betraying and losing our values is betraying and losing ourselves.”

“We should not take for granted the values that generations of committed people fought so hard to create, promote and preserve.”

Full Remarks:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all I would like to thank the 25 NGOs, co-sponsors, for the invitation to participate in this eighth Geneva Summit, and for the opportunity to present this year’s Women’s Rights Award. It is a great honor to me to join you.

As a former President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I will in my address speak, of course, from a European perspective. This does, however, not mean that the principles I am talking about should not apply to the globalized world. For me, human rights, democracy and the rule of law know no border and never should.

Ladies and gentlemen, 2016 should be a year of responsibilities and solidarity. Looking back at 2015 most observers agree that it was marked by fundamental challenges to the values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, as well as to the international system designed to protect them. Even though these challenges are not essentially new, their intensity and conversions have become a growing threat to the ideal of an open and free society. This threat takes four major shaped which I would like to develop during my address.

First, disruption of the balance between freedom and security as a result of anti-terrorist measures. Second, rejection of solidarity and living together in the context of the refugee drama. Third, dismantling of the international order and international trust. And finally the distortion of democracy by authoritarian populism. And we just had that panel who discussed that subject.

So first disruption of the balance between security and freedom. The hideous terrorist attacks that targeted and continue to target innocent life represent a great danger. All forms of extremism leading to violence need to be strongly condemned, refuted and fought against. But the fight against terror should not become a pretext for giving up on our rights and freedoms. In 2016 we should be particularly watchful and aware of the dangers of disproportionate and uncontrolled intervention of security bodies into our lives. It is easy to succumb to the entrepreneurs of fear, who would not hesitate to strip citizens of their rights in exchange for promises for safety. But once we are on this path it could be much more difficult to inverse such a libellous tendency. The cure can be more dangerous than the disease itself. As the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland pointed out, and I quote, “In 2016 terrorists will not destroy our democracies. Only we can do that.” 

Second, rejection of solidarity in the context of the refugee drama. The migration drama that brought hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing violence and misery to Europe was first met with indifference, later with rejection, as we see it every day now. Many advocate for a fortress mentality, refusing to accept and to help those who suffer just because they are seen as being foreigners, as being others, and it was referred to it before, Chinaphobia and intolerance are on the rise, undermining solidarity, which is a fundamental value and a pillar of our societies. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is acutely aware of these dangers and we continuously promote the no hate parliamentary alliance in order to oppose intolerance and hatred. I want this campaign to go beyond the European continent and beyond it’s parliamentary dimension and unite all genuine democratic forces including civil society, sports, and religious communities. If we join our forces we can make 2016 the year of hope and solidarity. I am proud to have been appointed ambassador of the Council of Europe to promote the no hate campaign and I ask you to support it. That’s why I’m wearing this button of no hate and I was very pleased that yesterday I already found some supporters. Please support this campaign: you can find it on Twitter, you can find it on internet, only if we say no to hate, no to intolerance, we can really say no to populism and stand up for our values.

Third, dismantling of international order and international trust. The major challenges we have to face can only be tackled by looking across national borders and working together. For this we rely on the hard earned international system built on multilateral and multilevel diplomacy and trust. At the same time, this trust appears to be eroding. Far beyond the regional context the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and the conflict in eastern Ukraine undermine the international order founded of the post-war dream of our predecessors. The so-called frozen conflict across Europe and across the world continued to entertain animosity between people and between leaders, leaving too many people in so-called “human rights black holes”. I hope that in 2016 who will be able to find courage and take our responsibility to move towards sustainable solutions, restoring trust and safeguarding the international order.

My last point is distortion of democracy by authoritarian populism. Another menace threatens many states. It is the menace of authoritarian populism. In 2016, more than ever, we should remember the essential difference between genuine democracy and populist role. Too often in the media, in the common knowledge, or even in political debate, there is a tendency to confuse the rule of the majority with democracy. This is a dangerous mistake. Genuine democracy is not a dictatorship of the majority. Democracy is a system that does not exist without the respect of the rule of law and the rights of minorities, be they political, ethnic, religious or sexual. Decisions, that this respect, human rights and the rule of law are undemocratic, even if they gain popular support.

Ladies and gentlemen, Europe without freedom, solidarity, trust and democracy, is a Europe without values. Betraying and losing our values is betraying and losing ourselves. The Council of Europe is the watchdog of our common values and it will continue stand firm reminding citizens including political leaders – and there I would like to add especially political leaders –  about their historic responsibility. Reminding us that we should not take for granted the values that generations of committed people fought so hard to create, promote and preserve.

I would also like to put your attention on the Council of Europe Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, where you can send in nominees until April of this year. And you find it on the website of the Council of Europe. 

The European countries should be, in fact, a role model, without patronising. And there I would like to quote Joan Hoey, who said “to lead by example”. We are far from doing that for the moment. But we have to be a role model for other countries of the world and we must take up our responsibilities now.

Ladies and gentlemen, the two laureates of this year’s Women’s Rights Award are more than a role model for all of us. They have, through their courage, their conviction, and their determination to protect the rights of women, human rights have no gender but women are particularly vulnerable in the face of barbaric fanatics. I am proud and honored to introduce the two laureates.

Vian Dakhil is a member of the parliament of Iraq and the laureate of the Anna Politkovskaya Award. She launched the campaign in order to help Yazidi people who suffer from continuous attacks by ISIS and faith extermination because of their belonging to a minority religion. But I think we let her speak by video, so please watch the screen. 

[Video plays]

We have to thank Vian Dakhil for her plea, for her courage, and you saw how she had to fight to speak out in her Parliament. But that plea made the tour of the world and was instrumental in President Obama’s decision to order air drops of urgent supplies and airstrikes against ISIS. Dear Vian Dakhil, you managed to be heard by the international community when you said that women in Iraq were killed or sold as slaves. Due to your tireless work to rebuild the shattered lives of traumatized ISIS escapees today you are a priority target for ISIS. And yet you don’t give up. So this is a lesson for us all. We have not to give up in order to help you. So congratulations to you and thank you so much. I think we should applaud her.

The other laureate, sitting next to Vian, is Professor Doctor Doctor Jan Ilhan Kizilhan. He is a German psychologist who operates a unique clinic in Iraq’s Kurdish region. He has done at least 12 times to Iraq where he examined 1400 girls and women, all former captives of ISIS, Yazidis and others, to evaluate their requirement for medical and psychological diseases due to captivity abuse and other causes. He was able to transfer 1100 of the most severe cases to Baden Wurtemburg in South West Germany for a period of intensive treatment, and he managed to convince the land of Baden Wurtemburg to finance this operation. That is really fantastic.

For Dr. Kizilhan, a Turkish born Yazidi who emigrated to Germany at the age of six, the work is also personal. As he said, ISIS do not see Yazidis like them, like him, like all human beings, but they don’t see Yazidis as human. And that is really unacceptable. So we will really like also to pay tribute to Jan Ilhan Kizilhan for his tremendous work. He’s a specialist in transcultural psychiatry so he is really the man. And I’m really glad he has been chosen as a laureate as well.

Dear laureates, this award is not only a very small recognition for the tremendous work you are doing, but should also be and must be a reminder for all of us that we have to be your spokesperson in order to stop this ongoing violation of the most fundamental human rights of the most vulnerable population. And ladies and gentlemen, I would like now to invite the co-sponsors of the Geneva Summit to join me for the awards presentation. So please if I can ask you to join me.

The award which I will have the honor to our gift to the laureates in a moment has the following inscription: 2016 Geneva Summit International Women’s Rights Award presented to Vian Dakhil for giving a voice to the voiceless and defending the basic human rights of Yazidi women, and to Jan Ilhan Kizilhan, for your inspiring work to help women victims recover their health, strength and human spirit. Dear laureates may I now invite you to join me on the podium in order to allow me to hand you over this award.

For Vian Dakhil’s acceptance speech, click here. For Dr. Jan Ilhan Kizilhan’s acceptance speech, click here.

Speakers and Participants

Anne Brasseur

Former President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

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