Aurora Prize awards, an Armenia‘s initiative, for awakening humanity is an international humanitarian prize, that is held every year. It is initiated to show gratitude towards those people, who have courage and humanism to devote themselves to humanitarian causes.
Aurora Prize awards is a part of two major projects: Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and 100 LIVES. It was first held in April 2016.
Throughout 100 years, after the Armenian genocide there have been many survival stories. Many survivors told stories about being saved by different people, there were some Turkish civilians, international journalists, philanthropists, etc.
During all those years, Armenians were commemorating the Genocide by demanding Turkey and the world to recognize it. Many countries have done it, some others, including Turkey, have not. So, after the 100th anniversary the concept of the commemoration was changed a little bit.
It’s not about only demanding anymore, it is also about expressing gratitude towards those people who saved lives of Armenians in the beginning of 20th century and those people, who help to save lives everywhere in the world today.
Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity
Aurora Prize Awards is a way, that survived Armenians show their gratitude to the people, who rescued them. It is held annually on April 24th (The Armenian genocide commemoration day) in Yerevan, Armenia.
The prize laureate receives US $ 100.000, as a personal grant and also is given a chance to choose any international humanitarian organization, that inspires him/her to help and save people. The organization that is chosen by the laureate, receives US $ 1.000.000 award.
Aurora prize is made possible by the IDeA Foundation. It is a family foundation of Ruben Vardanyan and Veronika Zonabend.
If you wonder who can be nominated, then here is the answer. Any person, or group of people, that have committed an extraordinary humanitarian act, which helped to save human lives anywhere in the world, can be nominated for the Aurora Prize.
There are certain criteria, according to which the winner is selected. Those are:
In addition to this, nominees don’t necessarily have to work in an humanitarian sector. People from any kind of background, who have risked their lives for other peoples’ freedom, dignity and life, who voluntarily have taken significant actions for helping people to survive, can be nominated.
There is a special selection committee, that thoroughly examines actions made by nominees and chooses the laureate.
Aurora Prize: The Selection Committee
This is the list of selection committee members. Some of them are also founders of Aurora Prize awards.
|George Clooney||Co-Founder, Selection Committee Co-Chair||Humanitarian, actor, filmmaker|
|Vartan Gregorian||Co-Founder, 100 LIVES||President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York|
|Hina Jilani||Member||Former United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders|
|Gareth Evans||Member||President Emeritus of the International Crisis Group; Former Australian Foreign Minister|
|Mary Robinson||Member||Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Former President of Ireland|
|Oscar Arias||Member||Two-time President of Costa Rica||Nobel Laureate|
|Shirin Ebadi||Member||Human Rights Lawyer and Iran’s first female judge||Nobel Laureate|
|Leymah Gbowee||Member||Executive Director of the Women Peace and Security Network (WIPSEN-Africa)||Nobel Laureate|
|Elie Wiesel (1928-2016)||Inaugural Selection Committee Co-Chair||President of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity||Nobel Laureate|
Aurora Prize: Why Aurora?
Many people may wonder, why the name Aurora was chosen for the humanitarian prize awards. Here is the story of Aurora.
Aurora (Arshaluys) Mardiganian, born in 1901, was a daughter of a successful businessman in Chmshgatsak, Ottoman Empire (present-day Turkey).
When pogroms against Armenians in Eastern Turkey started, it also touched Aurora’s family. She witnessed her whole family being slaughtered. She was forced to move miles away from her hometown and on the way, was kidnapped and sold as a slave.
Aurora managed to escape and from then on, her tramp around the world started. She ran from place to place: Tbilisi, St. Petersburg, Oslo and eventually, ended up on the other side of the ocean – New York.
Aurora’s Story Told Through the Movie
In New York, Harvey Gates, a screenwriter, after hearing the tragic story of Aurora, helped her to write memoir, called “Ravished Armenia; the Story of Aurora Mardiganian, the Christian Girl, Who Survived the Great Massacres” (1918).
One year later a movie, called “Auction of Souls”, was premiered in London, on the motives of Aurora’s writing. Aurora played in that movie herself. Later in her life, when giving interview to Anthony Slide, she said, that some scenes in the movie were not shot the way it happened in reality.
She said, that American directors, couldn’t cross the line, even in a thriller, they couldn’t picture what really happened to Armenian women during Genocide. She was referring to the scene, when Armenian women are being beaten and then nailed on the cross.
In the move, it was called “crucify” scene. According to Aurora, what she witnessed with her own eyes was much worse. Turkish soldiers had some pointed woods. They made girls to undress and bend down, after that soldiers raped them. Later, they made the girls sit on the pointed woods in between legs. This is the way they were killed.
In 1920, Aurora married and moved to Los Angeles. She lived the rest of her life in LA and died there in 1994.
Later, Aurora Humanitarian Initiative was created and together with 100 LIVES project Aurora Humanitarian prize was founded. It was in the memory of Aurora Mardiganian and all 1,5 million innocent victims of the Armenian Genocide.
Aurora Prize 2016: The Winner and Honorary Guests
The 1st Aurora Prize Awards, held in April 2016, was really a huge occasion in Armenia. IDeA foundation announced about the date of the ceremony and as soon as the call for applications was opened, there were thousands of applications received. Many young people wanted to take part in this huge event.
Many famous and influential people honored the Aurora Prize with their presence. They were from different backgrounds and spheres.
Among the honorary guests were: The President of Armenia Serj Sargsyan, many Armenian government officials, famous chansonnier Charles Aznavour, Hollywood actor, filmmaker George Clooney and many humanitarian leaders, Nobel laureates from all around the world.
Aurora Prize: The First Laureate
The laureate of the 1st Aurora Prize award became Marguerite Barankitse.
The story of this woman touched everyone in the audience and those watching the award show live. She had a very tragic live. She tried to hide 72 people, who were close to her, because they were prosecuted.
When they were discovered, all 72 were executed and Marguerite was forced to watch them die. After living that nightmare, she still remained true to humanitarian values.
After losing everything she had, she dedicated herself to children, who run from abuse and violence in Burundi. She did everything, cooperated with many organizations, to provide education, food and safety for those children.
In fact, in 20 years, Marguerite managed to save lives of 30.000 children and educate them. In 2008 she opened a hospital, that treated more than 80.000 people.
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