A leading Kurdish rights activist is to finally accept in person one of Europe’s top honours – nine years after she was awarded it.
Leyla Zana, the first Kurdish woman to win a seat in the Turkish parliament, was given the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize back in 1995 for her efforts to defend the rights of Kurds. But Zana, who has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, was unable to receive the award herself, as she had just been jailed by a Turkish court. At the 1996 award ceremony, her husband collected the prize on her behalf. The then president of the European Parliament, Klaus Hansch, said Zana had become symbolic of the peaceful struggle for the defence of the rights and values of the Kurdish people. Zana sent a message from her prison cell thanking parliament for the award which she said gave her struggle international respectability. Zana and three colleagues were jailed after being convicted of belonging to the banned Kurdistan Workers Party. She was freed after Turkey’s court of appeal overturned the conviction in June. She will be rewarded the Sakharov prize at a special ceremony on Thursday.