The Corner

Politics & Policy


There are many prizes in the world, including the Nobel Peace Prize, the most prestigious (by consensus). One of the most unusual, and one of the most admirable, from my point of view, is the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent. It is named after the late Czech dissident and president. And it’s awarded by the Oslo Freedom Forum.

I write about this prize in today’s installment of my “Oslo Journal,” here.

Recipients of the Havel prize get a statuette in the form of the goddess of democracy — the symbol that students in Tiananmen Square carried. They also get money. Every year, there are three recipients.

This year, one of the recipients was a group — a team of people — known as El Chigüire Bipolar. They are a satirical group in Venezuela. They combat the regime by humor and mockery. Naturally, dictators don’t like these things.

Another recipient was Silvanos Mudzvova, an incredibly brave, and creative, and personable, actor from Zimbabwe. He doesn’t live there now. He’s in exile. They tortured him almost to death. But his spirit is amazingly blithe.

The third recipient was Aayat Alqormozi, a young poet from Bahrain. She dared recite her poems in public. They arrested and tortured her. They told her her life was over. She disagreed.

Before signing off here, I’d like to mention one more person, whom I also discuss in today’s journal installment. Her name is Maria Toorpakai Wazir, and she is from South Waziristan, that infamous area in Pakistan dominated by the Taliban. Incredibly enough, she has become … a professional squash player.

She made a striking statement. It went something like this: “The first thing that comes into your mind, as a goal — that’s from God. The second thing that comes in is fear. Stick with the first thought, from God.”