Leyla Imret, 30, was the youngest mayor in Turkey ever elected to office in Cizre in the 2014 election. Photo: @lleyla73
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Ousted Cizre co-mayor Leyla Imret, who is wanted in Europe by Turkey, won an international human rights award for continuing to fight for equality while in exile.
The Board of Trustees of the Internationale Liga fur Menschenrechte (International League for Human Rights (ILHR)) awarded Imret the Carl von Ossietzky Medal this week in Berlin, Germany.
"In exile, she continues to fight fearfully for her return to the mayor's office, where she has been democratically elected, and courageously continues to promote human rights in Turkey, as well as a peaceful and righteous solution to the Kurdish question,” ILHR stated.
She shares the prize with Ottmar Miles-Paul, a social worker from Germany.
Imret said it was a "great honour" to receive the prize.
"We will continue to fight for human rights until the perpetrators of inhuman regulations in prisons, and crimes against humans and war crimes in the four parts of Kurdistan are prosecuted by conscientious justice,” she tweeted.
“As long as there is one single drop of blood left in me, I will struggle for human rights.”
She posted this photo on Twitter as she shared the news on November 8, 2018.
Ossietzky was a pacifist who exposed that Nazi Germany was in violation of the Treaty of Versailles by rebuilding its air force. He was convicted of espionage in 1931, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1935, and then executed in a concentration camp in 1938. The medal has been awarded since 1962.
"The award recognizes individuals or groups who have made a name for themselves through civil courage and outstanding commitment to the achievement, defense and enhancement of fundamental and human rights and peace," read the organization's website.
Leyla Imret was born in 1987 in the Kurdish city of Cizre near Turkey's border with Syria. Her father died in clashes with Turkish government forces when she was age 4. So she grew up in Bremen, Germany, and returned to Turkey with her mother and siblings when she was 13.
Imret ran for mayor of Cizre in Turkey's 2014 election on the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) ticket. She earned 83 percent of the vote to become the youngest mayor elected in the country’s history at the age of 27.
"In her office, she worked with all her strength for reconstruction, equality and humane conditions in the city suffering from the consequences of the war,” stated the ILHR.
When peace talks between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkish state stalled in 2014, the Turkish government imposed curfews on many Kurdish cities including Cizre.
She faced charges of inciting people into an armed uprising against the state and terrorist propaganda. Turkey's Ministry of Interior impeached her, and after repeated arrests she fled to Germany. Her post was given to a member of the ruling pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP).
"Notwithstanding her personal predicament, in which she was boldly committed while outside of Turkey, she testified in 2018 as an expert witness at the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal in Paris on human rights violations and war crimes of the Turkish state in her city,” added ILHR.
Turkey is set to hold local elections on or before March 31, 2019.
Ottmar Miles-Paul, a German man with visual and hearing impairments, was a co-recipient of the medal in 2018 for striving for equality for people with disabilities.
"With their outstanding commitment, both award-winners are strongly committed to the rights of disadvantaged people and to direct the public's attention to the social and political ostracism,” read the organization's website.
Previous winners include whistle blower Edward Snowden, journalist Glenn Greenwald, and the SOS Mediterranne Sea Rescue Project that saved many migrants fleeing the MENA for Europe.