2019 Aurora Humanitarians

The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity recognizes three extraordinary humanitarians for their noble commitment to liberating women from ISIS captivity, challenging a network of secret prisons in Yemen and negotiating the release of kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria.

24 April 2019, Yerevan – The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity’s Selection Committee has named three outstanding 2019 Aurora Humanitarians, recognized for performing acts of exceptional courage and their commitment to saving human life. The 2019 Aurora Prize Laureate will be announced at a ceremony in Armenia on October 20, 2019. With a $1 million award the Laureate will get an opportunity to continue the cycle of giving and support the organizations that have inspired their work.

The 2019 Aurora Humanitarians are:

  • Mr. Mirza Dinnayi, Co-Founder and Director of Luftbrücke Irak (Air Bridge Iraq), a humanitarian organization that flies Yazidi victims from Iraq to Germany for medical treatment. Mirza Dinnayi has helped several hundred women escape from the territories controlled by ISIS, personally taking part in missions to bring them back to safety, and delivered food and water to the Yazidis in isolated areas. Driven by his passion to save lives, he has found a way to overcome numerous bureaucratic and logistic obstacles to help the most vulnerable. Mr. Dinnayi has nominated three organizations that provide medical care and rehabilitation to victims of ISIS terror: Air Bridge Iraq, SEED Foundation and Shai Fund.
  • Mr. Zannah Bukar Mustapha, lawyer, Director and Founder of Future Prowess Islamic Foundation – a school that provides education to some of the most deprived children in Maiduguri, Nigeria. In October 2016, he secretly traveled to meet with Boko Haram rebels in their Sambisa forest hideout during a media blackout and left with 21 children. Thirteen months later, supported by ICRC, the Swiss government and the Nigerian authorities, he negotiated the additional release of 82 girls. Zannah Bukar Mustapha has nominated three organizations that aim to reduce conflict through strong community effort and good governance: Future Prowess Islamic Foundation, Adab Community Renewal Foundation and Herwa Community Development Initiative.
  • Ms. Huda Al-Sarari, lawyer and activist. Huda Al-Sarari is a brave and inspiring Yemeni human rights activist, who singlehandedly investigates, exposes and challenges a clandestine network of secret prisons run by foreign governments in Yemen, where thousands of men and boys have faced arbitrary detention. She has amassed incontrovertible evidence of the abuse that takes place within the prisons and succeeded in convincing Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to take up the cause. She has nominated an international organization that defends victims of extreme human rights abuse and two organizations that combat discrimination and promote equality: Reprieve, Equal Rights Trust and Wethaq Foundation for Civil Orientation.

“These are awe-inspiring humanitarians, fighting the good fight for our common humanity. The Aurora Prize acknowledges the immense humanitarian impact that can be made by the persistence and commitment of single individuals and deserves the world’s gratitude for the way in which it highlights their achievement and maximizes their capacity. This Prize, like no other, gives these heroes the recognition they deserve and empowers them to continue their work,” noted Gareth Evans, Aurora Prize Selection Committee member and President Emeritus of the International Crisis Group.

The Selection Committee had chosen the three Aurora Humanitarians from 719 nominations for 523 unique candidates submitted from 72 countries.

Dr. Tom Catena, Inaugural Chair of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and the 2017 Prize Laureate said, “The three heroes chosen by the Aurora Prize Selection Committee are extraordinary individuals who have worked to better people’s lives at huge personal risk and cost. As an Aurora Prize Laureate, I have first-hand experience of the impact the Aurora Prize has made on the lives of local actors pursuing humanitarian causes in places around the world that are often overlooked. Perhaps most importantly, the cycle of giving supported by the Prize – the opportunity to divide the award between other humanitarian organizations – is a true demonstration of gratitude in action.” 

The 2018 Aurora Prize was awarded to Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung, a lawyer and Rohingya Muslim leader who, despite being imprisoned for a collective 12 years for peaceful protests against systematic discrimination and violence, uses his legal expertise to fight for equality, improvements in education and human rights for his community. Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung has decided to support international organizations that provide medical aid and assistance to refugees in Myanmar.

The 2019 Aurora Prize ceremony will take place during the first Aurora Forum, an ambitious and sweeping week of activities, which will be held on October 14-21, 2019, in Yerevan, Armenia, highlighting the best of the world’s social, scientific, educational and humanitarian practices.

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