They Defend Our Freedoms
30 years / Sakharov Prize

Nikos Economopoulos, In The Balkans Political meeting. Yozgat, Turkey. 1990. © Nikos Economopoulos, Magnum Photos

Acclaimed French journalist Éric Fottorino delves into the history of human rights for Magnum and the European Parliament.

Awarded for the first time in 1988 to Nelson Mandela and Anatoli Marchenko, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is the highest tribute paid to human rights work by the European Union. It gives recognition to individuals, groups and organizations that have made an outstanding contribution to protecting freedom of thought.

To mark 30 years of the Sakharov Prize, Magnum photographers Jérôme Sessini, Bieke Depoorter, Enri Canaj, and Newsha Tavakolian have worked with four remarkable individuals, all staunch defenders of human rights, to shine a light on their work. A commission for European Parliament, these stories are gathered in a new book and exhibition which will launch this month, and the work will be serialized on Magnum Photos over the coming weeks.

 

Alex Webb, Miskito children. Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. 1992. © Alex Webb, Magnum Photos

Christopher Anderson, Soldiers on parade for Augusto Pinochet in front of the presidential palace. Santiago, Chile. 1995. © Christopher Anderson, Magnum Photos

“This book is about all those who – just as the laureates – fight for their rights and fairer societies while motivating others to do the same,” wrote Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament in the book’s introduction.

Magnum will be serializing the work over the coming weeks. In our first chapter, an extract from the essay They Defend Our Freedoms, by acclaimed French journalist Éric Fottorino, we explore the history of human rights and those who have fought for them, illustrated here with the extensive historic work of Magnum photographers, for documenting – and defending – those human rights abuses and issues is central to the agency’s work.

 

Stuart Franklin, Tiananmen Square. Beijing, China. 1989. © Stuart Franklin, Magnum Photos

Hiroji Kubota, Kim Chaek Ironworks, the largest ironworks in North Korea, with an estimated annual production capacity of 2.5 million tons. © Hiroji Kubota, Magnum Photos

They Defend Our Freedoms (extract):

Human rights. Two short words with a long history. Two short words which, armed only with the force of an ideal, do so much to prevent human beings from preying on one another. How many ideals and struggles are encapsulated in this term? How many tortured faces have been banished from the world of the living? How many charters and resolutions, protocols and pacts, conventions and petitions are there? How many hopes and battles against the arbitrary? How many places on this planet where the force of law has finally won out over laws imposed by force?

‘Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.’

 

Thomas Dworzak, Girl with balloons. Destruction in the city center. Nothing has been rebuilt since the two wars. Grozny, Chechnya, Russia. March, 2002. © Thomas Dworzak, Magnum Photos

Winners of the Sakharov Prize include heroes who were previously anonymous and have now become the public face of a struggle: Denis Mukwege, who saved the lives of so many women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, had been appallingly mutilated; the young Pakistani woman Malala Yousafzaï; or the two young Yazidi women from Iraq, Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bachar, who narrowly escaped the worst of the horrors perpetrated by Da’esh before leading the fight against the trafficking of women. Mothers, artists, anti-torture and pro-peace activists, representatives of ethnic minorities and the United Nations as an institution: from the start the Sakharov Prize has made bold and eclectic choices when choosing recipients who embody the struggle of the human face against the inhuman.

 

They Defend Our Freedoms – 30 Years of the Sakharov Prize
The European Parliament commission of Magnum Photos
Various engagements throughout Europe, 2017 – 2018
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