A group of some 1,000 researchers were handed the award for calling for an end to the conflict with Kurdish troops. They have continued their activism despite a crackdown on free speech.
The Aachen Peace Prize has announced its winner for 2016 on Thursday. This year's award went to the Turkish group Academics for Peace, with the runner-up being the Open Field Citizens' Initiative, a long-standing anti-militarization group.
The prize was established in 1988 as a protest to the Charlemagne Prize being conferred upon former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. The Charlemagne Prize, also awarded in its namesake's one-time capital of Aachen, is considered Germany's most prestigious trophy for contributing to world peace.
Since January, Academics for Peace, a committee of 1,128 researchers and professors in Turkey, have called for renewed peace talks with Kurdish militants. "We will not participate in this crime," has been their rallying call, all the more important since the summer – when Ankara dropped all pretense of peace with the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party and renewed its military campaign against them. To that end, Turkish soldiers have even been sent to Syria and Iraq to fight Kurdish troops.
Esra Mungan (pictured above), a member of the group, told the press how difficult it has been to speak publicly and live democratically since the attempted coup in Turkey in July.
Peace-makers branded traitors
"When you speak of peace, you're considered a traitor," said Mugan. In spite of the repression of freedom of speech in the wake of the failed putsch, and the purge of public officials (including many academics and university lecturers), the more than 1,000 researchers signed a treatise calling for the end of the "witch hunt," as Mugan put it.
In second place, the Open Field Citizens' Initiative is known for its two decades of protesting militarization, particularly at the NATO and German army combat training center Altmark, near the city of Magdeburg.
es/kms (EPD, dpa)