Dr. Vartan Gregorian presents the award to Kyaw Hla Aung.

Aurora Prize Awarded to Rohingya Human Rights Defender Kyaw Hla Aung


YEREVAN — The third annual $1.1 million Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity was awarded on June 10 to Kyaw Hla Aung, a lawyer and activist recognized for his dedication to fighting for equality, education and human rights for the Rohingya people in Myanmar, in the face of persecution, harassment and oppression. Kyaw Hla Aung was presented the 2018 Aurora Prize, granted by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors, at a ceremony in Armenia.

Kyaw Hla Aung was selected as the 2018 Aurora Prize Laureate from among 750 nominations submitted from 115 countries.

Vartan Gregorian, co-founder of the Aurora Prize and a member of the Selection Committee, commended Aung, stating: “As we remember the horrors and violence experienced by Armenians — especially women and children — on the deportation route during the Genocide, it is with a great sense of responsibility that we stand ready to support Kyaw Hla Aung’s advocacy work that will hopefully lead one day to the enactment of national and international policies to protect and defend the vulnerable. Kyaw Hla Aung is doing tremendous work, at great risk to himself, and exemplifies the far-reaching impact one person can have to galvanize a movement, and to help individuals transform their lives.”

As the 2018 Aurora Prize Laureate, Kyaw Hla Aung will receive a $100,000 grant and the opportunity to continue the cycle of giving by donating the accompanying $1,000,000 award to organizations of his choice. He will donate the award to three international organizations that provide medical aid and assistance to refugees in Myanmar:

* Médecins Sans Frontières (London)

* Malaysian Medical Relief – MERCY Malaysia (Malaysia)

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* International Catholic Migration Commission – ICMC (Switzerland, US)

Kyaw Hla Aung has been working for decades, using his legal expertise to appeal for basic human rights for the stateless Rohingya people. His commitment to fight for justice for the hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees in Myanmar persecuted by the government, and for the children who no longer have access to education, remains stronger than ever. He sacrificed a total of 12 years in prison as a result of his mission, at huge personal cost to his own family.

Visiting the Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial

He said: “There are severe restrictions on my people. They have lost their courage and faith in themselves, have become illiterate, and, as a result, are penniless. It has been heartbreaking to see my community suffer from such discrimination. The support of the Aurora Prize serves as important recognition for all of the Muslim victims of human rights violations, as the plight of the Rohingya people continues to become more visible to the international public.”

“Kyaw Hla Aung’s work personifies the spirit of the Aurora Prize. He demonstrates the exceptional impact an individual can have in fighting injustice that often seems unbeatable, and inspires us to consider how a brave step forward to support the world’s most vulnerable people can create impact beyond measure,” said Mary Robinson, Aurora Prize Selection Committee member and Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.


Celebrating Aurora

Leading international humanitarian figures and Aurora Prize Selection Committee members, including Robinson, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi; former foreign minister of Australia and President Emeritus of the International Crisis Group Gareth Evans; former president of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo; Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London, Lord Ara Darzi; former US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power; and co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières and former French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, were in Armenia for the event.

Kyaw Hla Aung was congratulated by Dr. Tom Catena, who was awarded the 2017 Aurora Prize for his exceptional commitment to providing urgent medical care to the 750,000 people in the war-torn Nuba Mountains of Sudan. He said: “The Aurora Prize has created a true light for our people in Nuba, and has helped rebuild the resilience of our community, ultimately to keep people alive. I am proud to share the Aurora Prize mantle with such a selfless humanitarian as Kyaw Hla Aung. I congratulate him on receiving this award and applaud his incredibly selfless efforts fighting for such a noble cause.”

Guests of the Aurora Prize Ceremony also honored the contributions of the other two 2018 Aurora Prize Humanitarians: Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, women’s rights advocate and co-founder of Prajwala, India, and Father Tomás González Castillo, Founder of La 72, a center that supports Central American migrants in Mexico.

The Aurora Prize Co-Founders are Gregorian, Noubar Afeyan and Ruben Vardanyan.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, right, greets last year’s winner, Dr. Tom Catena, with Rouben Vardanyan next to him.

Nominations are now open for the 2019 Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, a global humanitarian award presented by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative recognizing those who change and save lives, often at risk to themselves. The Aurora Prize is granted on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors.

The Committee is chaired by actor and philanthropist George Clooney and includes Nobel Laureates Oscar Arias, Ebadi and Leymah Gbowee; Robinson; human rights activist Hina Jilani; Evans; Zedillo; Darzi; former US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power; and co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières and former French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner.

A description of the Aurora Prize criteria and selection process can be found on the Prize website. Nominations for the 2019 Aurora Prize will close on September 7, 2018.

A guest takes a selfie with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, with Noubar Afeyan at teh back

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