Washington, D.C. — The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation today named two leading Ukrainian human rights activists as the 2014 recipients of the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom: Mustafa Dzhemilev and Myroslav Marynovych.
A heroic example of bravery throughout his life, Mustafa Dzhemilev spent decades defending the political rights of Crimean Tatars from Soviet aggression. A member of the Ukrainian parliament, Dzhemilev has now come to be one of the most prominent critics of Vladimir Putin’s recent annexation of Crimea. In late April Mr. Dzhemilev’s office building was attacked by unmarked soldiers and in recent days Russian-backed Crimean authorities have reportedly barred Dzhemilev, the political leader of the Crimean Tatars and a lifelong human rights advocate, from entry into Russian-occupied lands.
Myroslav Marynovych is vice-rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University and founder of Amnesty International Ukraine. Despite having suffered as a prisoner of conscience for nearly a decade during the Brezhnev era, Marynovych has worked tirelessly to strengthen civil society in his native country. In recent months he has also been an eloquent spokesman for human rights and Ukrainian sovereignty. Mr. Marynovych has dedicated his life to first freeing Ukraine from Soviet oppression and then to building institutions of freedom in Ukraine.
“It is our privilege and honor to bestow this award upon two individuals who have worked so courageously to ensure that future generations will live in a world free of the horrors that came from living under a communist regime,” said Marion Smith, Executive Director of the Victims of Communism foundation, in announcing the award.
“Mustafa Dzhemilev and Myroslav Marynovych demonstrate that the fight to realize freedom and democracy across the world is never easy,” said Dr. Lee Edwards, Foundation chairman. “The daily struggle to gain and preserve liberty against all forms of tyranny is one we all must wage.”
The Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom is awarded each year by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation to those individuals and institutions that have demonstrated a life-long commitment to freedom and democracy and opposition to communism and all other forms of tyranny. The award will be presented on June 11th at a ceremony hosted by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation at the Victims of Communism Memorial on Capitol hill in Washington, D.C. Full biographies of the recipients are below.
To schedule an interview with Marion Smith, please contact Vanessa Oblinger at [email protected] or 202-997-1289
About the Recipients:
Mustafa Dzhemilev is the political leader of the Crimean Tatars, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, and a lifelong human rights advocate. Dzhemilev was only six months old when his family was exiled by the Soviet government from Crimea along with tens of thousands of Crimean Tatars. He grew up in Uzbekistan away from his homeland. Over the course of twenty years from the 1960s to the 1980s, Dzhemilev was arrested six times for anti-Soviet activism; he served in forced labor camps and Soviet prisons and lived under state surveillance. Dzhemilev endured the longest human rights hunger strike in history, which lasted over 300 days. He was elected leader of the non-violent Crimean Tatar National Movement in 1989, and returned to his homeland that same year. He has remained involved in Ukrainian politics since then, and is a respected leader in the Mejlis, the Tatars’ highest representative body in Crimea. As he was almost seventy years ago, Mr. Dzhemilev once again finds himself torn from his homeland and standing in defense of political and human rights.
Myroslav Marynovych is a Ukrainian human rights activist and distinguished civil-society leader. Born to a religious family under Soviet rule, Marynovych was conscripted into the Red Army in his twenties. In 1977, he was arrested as an agitator and sentenced to 7 years of hard labor and 5 years in exile. He worked to found the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, a group that monitored the Soviet government’s compliance with the 1975 landmark human rights accords, and in 1991 he founded and chaired the Ukrainian chapter of Amnesty International. A frequent writer and contributor to public debates, Marynovych has been involved in many human rights groups in his native Ukraine and has spoken out strongly in support of the pro-democracy protests there. Also active in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Marynovych currently serves as Vice-Rector at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, where he has worked since 2000. The recipient of many academic and human rights awards, Marynovych has been awarded the Ukrainian Order of Liberty, an honor granted by the Ukrainian Parliament to recognize the extraordinary efforts of citizens of Ukraine to strengthen the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, develop democracy, and advocate constitutional rights.