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Dr. Widad Akrawi Receives the Pfeffer Peace Award
an article by Linda Kelly, Fellowship of Reconciliation USA (abridged)

Each year the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) bestows three peace awards - international, national, and local - to individuals or organizations whose commitment to peace and justice is recognized as extraordinary. This week, the 2014 international award was presented to Dr. Widad Akrawi.

Photo of Dr. Akrawi courtesy of Dr. Widad Akrawi and Defend International

click on photo to enlarge

The International Pfeffer Peace Award was established in 1989 by Leo and Freda Pfeffer to particularly honor those around the world working for peace and justice. Leo Pfeffer was the United States’ leading theoretician on religious liberty and the separation of church and state, and he argued these constitutional issues before the Supreme Court. A long-time FOR member, Leo was a founding member of the Jewish Peace Fellowship. Leo died in 1993 and Freda died in 2013, but their legacy continues to contribute to a more peaceful society.

Dr. Widad Akrawi, a Danish citizen of Kurdish ancestry, is considered one of Scandinavia’s most successful female human rights defenders and peace advocates. She is a global health expert, author, lecturer, lobbyist, as well as the co- founder and president of Defend International - a nongovernmental organization devoted to peace, democracy, diplomacy, human rights, and medical research.

As an outspoken peace activist, Dr. Akrawi was forced to leave the Kurdistan region of Iraq after first Gulf War in 1991. She sought political asylum in Denmark, where she established citizenship and became a student, earning a master’s degree in genetics and a Ph.D. in international health and cancer epidemiology.

Dr. Akrawi was the first young woman of Middle Eastern descent to advocate a ban on the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons. She has campaigned against gender-based violence, torture, and other human rights abuses; and is an advocate of chemical and biological disarmament, conventional disarmament, and international peace and security.

Among her many accomplishments, Dr. Akrawi has created momentum in favor of a U.N. resolution on a strong and an effective Arms Trade Treaty to prevent the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons that might be used for acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, or terrorism. She has also spoken out against armed gender- based violence. She successfully lobbied for the U.N. Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. . .

The 2014 International Pfeffer Award was presented to Dr. Akrawi on Monday, October 13, at an event arranged at the Oslo Peace House by Trond Gunnar Rasmussen of FOR Norway. Rev. Lucas Johnson, International Coordinator for the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, presented the award on behalf of FOR-USA with members of FOR Norway attending. . .

In a gracious acceptance speech she said, “As the first Scandinavian woman, the third European citizen, and the first woman born in Kurdistan at the heart of Mesopotamia, I am particularly honored. But I wouldn’t be standing here without the blood, sweat, and tears of the many human rights defenders, peace advocates, civil society activists, and my other fellow lobbyists. It has been a true honor to collaborate with such brilliant personalities.”


Question(s) related to this article:

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?,

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Latest reader comment:

The 30 articles in CPNN linked to this question make it clear that women indeed have a special role to play in the peace movement.  See the following for an historical explanation of why this is true.

This report was posted on November 16, 2014.