Joan Baez and artist Ai Weiwei were awarded the 2015 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award on Thursday, May 21, at a ceremony in Berlin which featured performances from artists around the world.
The Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award recognizes those who have shown exceptional leadership in the fight for human rights, through their life and work. Joan Baez and artist Ai Weiwei are the 2015 winners.
“Artists have supported Amnesty International since the organization’s very beginnings. Who better to receive this Award today than Joan Baez and Ai Weiwei — two brilliant individuals, who also know what it means to risk punishment for their convictions,” said Selmin Calýskan, Secretary General of Amnesty International in Germany.
Speakers at the Ceremony included Patti Smith, who praised Joan Baez for her commitment to activism, saying she never assumed to lead but ‘led by example’.
Joan Baez described the day as an “extraordinary celebration” and gave a special message to people around the world who might want to contribute to the struggle for human rights: “Everyone has a constituency. Even if that constituency is just one…. You have to find people to work with you on whatever your passion is. Don’t tolerate injustice.”
“No serious change happens unless people are willing to take a risk,” Joan Baez added.
Chris Dercon, Director of the Tate Modern in London, accepted the Award on behalf of Ai Weiwei saying:
“Ai Weiwei’s predicament, and the restrictions on his freedom of movement, are all too common for activists, dissidents and even lawyers in China. Pu Zhiqiang for instance, a lawyer who defended Weiwei, faces a possible eight years in prison according to his lawyers after being charged this week with inciting ethnic hatred and ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’.”
“Ai Weiwei said to me this award is ‘for those who sacrifice their lives for a better society, for freedom of speech and expression. I am receiving the award for them. There are so many people in far worse situations than me’.”
Glass vase sculptures, designed by Czech designer Booek Sipek, were presented to the awardees at the event.
The Ceremony featured musical and theatrical performances from Germany and across the globe including: German songwriter and rapper Clueso; acclaimed actress Lisa Dwan; Academy Award-winning Glen Hansard; soul and blues singer Jo Harman; bestselling concert pianist and composer Gabriela Montero; and American jazz guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel.
Other guests at the Ceremony included Ensaf Haidar, wife of Saudi Arabian Blogger Raif Badawi. In 2014 a criminal court sentenced Raif Badawi to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail. Amnesty International and Ensaf Haidar have organized a rally outside the Saudi Embassy in Berlin for noon on Friday, calling for Raif Badawi’s urgent release. – by CelebrityAccess