The Moore Prize Winner 2020
Raja Shehadeh. Going Home: A Walk Through Fifty Years of Occupation. Profile Books, 2019.
On the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories Raja Shehadeh went for a walk in Ramallah. Shehadeh’s captivating narrative chronicles his day of walking through his home city on 5 June 2017. The landmarks he passes evoke anecdotes and reflections on the everyday impact of occupation on his family, his neighbours, and his professional life. His reflections roam through 50 years of “political defeats, frustrations and failures” after the Six Day War, including the periods of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization, the never-solved murder of his father in 1986, the Oslo Accords, the two Intifadas, the Israeli settlements that continue to be “ever expanding” into occupied territory, the daily commutes of workers on foot through checkpoints, and soldiers’ killings of civilians including children. As the author describes walking by the office of Al Haq, the human rights organization he founded, he reflects on the futility of decades of human rights activism to date but articulates hope for Al Haq’s preparation of a war crimes case for the International Criminal Court. He imagines that “success in one case… would surely deter more soldiers from so brazenly violating Palestinian human rights.”
This book was selected as the winner of the Moore Prize 2020 because of the beauty of its writing and the author’s ability to convey the everyday realities of generations of ordinary Palestinians living under occupation. Readers will not come away from this book with a multi-party history, an analysis of Palestinian resistance to occupation, or a catalogue of human rights violations. Instead, the poignant power of Raja Shehadeh’s memoir draws the reader towards a sense of intimacy with the city and people of Ramallah trying to live their lives in dignity and peace.
The Moore Prize 2020 Short List for Writing on Human Rights
Monique Villa. Slaves Among Us: The Hidden World of Human Trafficking. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2019.
Monique Villa’s disturbing book exposes what is hidden in plain sight in many parts of the world – human slavery. An estimated 40 million people – girls, boys, women and men on all continents – are “forced to work, through fraud or threat of violence, for no pay beyond subsistence.” The author points out that today there are more slaves than ever before in history. Traffickers make huge profits. The author exposes the grisly global trade in human beings through compelling stories of three individuals who have been seduced, tricked or coerced into sexual slavery or forced labour. Victims of human trafficking have little or no recourse to help or remedies. They are silenced by their trauma and dependence on their captors for survival and by the constant threats, abuse, beatings, or even torture. Those who escape may lack remedies and services to reduce their vulnerability to being trafficked again. Villa identifies weaknesses in legal systems that thwart the ability to prosecute traffickers or result in criminalization of victims. She makes concrete suggestions for needed change, including pressure on businesses for due diligence in supply chains and practical legal and other remedies and assistance for survivors of slavery so that they can rebuild their lives with dignity.
Ahmet Altan, trans. Yasemin Congar. I Will Never See the World Again: The Memoir of an Imprisoned Writer. Other Press, 2019.
Ahmet Altan is a celebrated journalist. He is now in prison in Turkey serving a life sentence. The author wrote this series of essays over a period of seven months from November 2017 to May 2018 on pieces of paper that he gave to his lawyers to take out of Silivri Prison to his friend Yasemin Congar who transcribed and translated them. The mesmerizing chapters recount the journey of Ahmet Altan from dissident to prisoner for life after he was caught up in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s purge of critics after the attempted coup of 2016. Along with thousands of others, Ahmet Altan was arrested on trumped up charges, convicted after an unfair trial, and sentenced to life imprisonment. International human rights lawyer Philippe Sands wrote the foreword to the book.
Carlos Sardiña Galache. The Burmese Labyrinth: A History of the Rohingya Tragedy. Verso Books, 2020.
The title of this book emphasises the suffering of the Rohingya people in Rakhine State in the northwestern part of Myanmar bordering on Bangladesh to the North and Bay of Bengal to the west. The strength of this book is that it place the contemporary situation of the Rohingya in Myanmar into the context of Burma’s colonial history, independence, and Burmese military domination which continues under the the current Aung San Suu Kyi government. While the Rohingya have been subjected to decades of oppression and periods of intense ethnic cleansing and atrocities in 2012 and 2017, other minorities in Myanmar, including Kachin and Shan people, have also been the subject of government and military (Tatmadaw) oppression and atrocity crimes. The author, who is a journalist with extensive experience in Southeast Asia and Myanmar, combines history with reportage. He reports on significant failures of the international community in Myanmar and touches on UN investigations into crimes against humanity and genocide against the Rohingya, including accusations of genocide, but the time-frame of the book stops prior to the 2019 case against Myanmar under the Genocide Convention in the International Court of Justice. The author views the atrocities against the Rohingya in the milieu of Myanmar’s many conflicts that are “the consequence of a failed project of nation building.”
Kai Strittmatter, trans. Ruth Martin. We Have Been Harmonized: Life in China's Surveillance State. Exeter, UK: Old Street Publishing, 2019
Kai Strittmatter’s chilling book focuses on China as a surveillance state which under Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has stifled the voices of all dissenters. Chinese authorities use technology, the internet including Chinese social media, and a “Social Credit System” to record, reward or punish every transaction of each Chinese citizen. Thus, the population is “harmonized” and made politically compliant. The author suggests that the rest of the world must open its eyes to the situation in China and recognize that the history of engagement with China has not resulted in democratization. Instead, human rights in China have deteriorated, while China pursues increasing activism at the United Nations Human Rights Council. Human rights activists have sounded the alarm that China is attempting to “rewrite human rights norms,” so far achieving a 2018 resolution that uses the harmless language of “mutually beneficial” international cooperation to give “some of their harmonious-sounding home-grown propaganda a place on the world stage.”
Jonathan Head is the South East Asia Correspondent for BBC News. He was formerly the BBC Indonesia Correspondent, South East Asia Correspondent, Tokyo Correspondent and Turkey Correspondent, with over 20 years' experience as a reporter, programme editor and producer for BBC radio and television. Jonathan won a Peabody Award in 2019 for his role on the BBC’s “Plight of Rohingya Refugees.” coverage of the Rohingya refugee crisis in Burma.
Djamila Ribeiro has a master's degree in Political Philosophy from the Federal University of São Paulo. She is the coordinator of the Sueli Carneiro editorial Seal and the Plural Feminisms Collection. She is the author of several books, such as “Lugar de Fala” (Seal Sueli Carneiro / Pólen Livros), “Who's afraid of Black Feminism?” and “A Short anti-racist guide” (both by Companhia das Letras). She is also a guest professor in the journalism department at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (PUC-SP). A Columnist for Folha de S. Paulo newspaper and Elle magazine, Djamila became the Deputy Assistant of Human Rights for the city of São Paulo in 2016. She was awarded the 2019 Prince Claus Award, granted by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and considered by the BBC one of the 100 most influential women in the world, the same year.
Catherine Morris has been engaged in teaching, research, monitoring and advocacy on international human rights since 2004. She works in Canada and internationally in academic, community, non-profit, public and private sectors. She is the Executive Director of Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada and has represented LRWC at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva since 2011. She has been a leader in the field of conflict resolution since 1983 and is the founder of Peacemakers Trust, a Canadian non-profit organization for education and research in conflict resolution and peacebuilding.