Muslim singer Deeyah wins Freedom Award

Muslim singer Deeyah wins Freedom Award

Deeyah, the Muslim singer and activist, was awarded with an ArtVenture Freedom to Create Prize at a ceremony in London on 26 November 2008.

More than 900 artists from 86 countries had been nominated. Three artists, Deeyah along with Turkish-Kurdish Ferhat Tunç and Burmese Win Maw, nominated by Freemuse, all made it to the final shortlist of five in their respective categories.

The main prize category was awarded to the Zimbabwean playwright Cont Mhlanga – a fierce opponent of the Mugabe regime. Deeyah was awarded 10,000 US dollars as third place winner, which gives her a financial opportunity to continue her work for freedom of expression.

The prize recognizes artists who use their talents in promoting empathy and understanding and confronting discrimination and oppression.

Says Deeyah: “I feel proud and overwhelmed! To even be considered in the context of such extraordinary artists and talent is a tremendous honour. To make it this far is absolutely unexpected, humbling and a great privilege that I am extremely grateful for”.

Deeyah was nominated by Freemuse for her two of her major productions – ‘Sisterhood’ and the video ‘What will it be’.

Exiled in the USA, Deeyah finds the The ArtVenture Freedom to Create Prize a wonderful and inspiring initiative.

“The belief in change through artistic expression is near and dear to me. I am very very appreciative of the work of groups like ArtVenture and Freemuse, and I thank you for your necessary work and for your encouragement and support.”

The panel
The final award winners were chosen by an independent panel consisting of amongst others Brazilian theatre director & writer Augusto Boal, founder of the Theatre of the Oppressed, the Chilean poet Carlos Reyes-Manzo, who as a photojournalist has documented the lives of thousands of marginalised peoples and Iranian filmmaker, Samira Makhmalbaf.

At the prize ceremony in London Carlos Reyes-Manzo said: “Deeyah is an important voice telling us what happens round the world to women.”

About the Freedom to Create Prize
The Award was initiated by ArtVenture, a grant-making philanthropic organisation and Freemuse’s sister organisation, ARTICLE 19 – a human rights pioneer which defends and promotes freedom of expression and freedom of information all over the world.

The prize ceremony was attended by leading representatives of human rights organisations working with artistic freedom of expression, artists and members of the jury. The ArtVenture Freedom to Create Prize consisted of three categories. The winner of the main prize was awarded 50,000 US dollars.

The ArtVenture Freedom to Create Youth Prize open to artists and oargnisations working with young people under the age of 18 was given to Brazilian hip hop collective ‘City of Rhyme’.

45 years in prison
Freemuse has nominated Burmese singer Win Maw to the ‘Imprisoned Artist Prize’. Making it to the final shortlist Wim Maw was considered an important voice for freedom of speech. The award was given to his Burmese colleague, satirist Zarganar, recently sentenced to 45 years in prison by the military dictattors of Burma.

Of all nominating organisations Freemuse was the only human rights organisations which succeeded geting all of its nominees to the shortlist.

Says Freemuse Executive Director, Marie Korpe:
“This is a very important acknowledgement of the importance of the role that musicians play in today’s society for freedom of expression and we congratulate the artists that we have the honour to working with.”

The organisers of the event declared in a statement:
“Some governments harass and impoverish their citizens, steal resources, stifle entrepreneurship and undermine human ingenuity and hope. In these societies, art can play an important role in giving a voice to those who are denied opportunity and resources. The arts empower people through the free expression of ideas, hopes, dreams and aspirations. It helps to create our future. Our goal is to use the arts to alleviate suffering and provide opportunities to the world’s most neglected communities.”

Deeyah’s songs and blog on

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