Bruno Kreisky Foundation

for Human Rights

In conversation

May 19, 2011
"For you do not kill the spirit, you brothers and sisters".
dr Barbara Preitler - "Hemayat", one of the winners of the Bruno Kreisky Human Rights Prize 2011 in conversation with Michael Kerbler
The support center for torture and war survivors, Hemayat, received the Bruno Kreisky Human Rights Prize this year together with the Carinthian refugee aid organization ASPIS, the psychosocial center ESRA and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra founded by Daniel Barenboim. By the way: The word "Hemayat" comes from the Arabic language area and means "care" and "protection".

Barbara Preitler

in conversation with Michael Kerbler

Refugees in a police detention center in Vienna
Refugees in a police detention center in Vienna

The idea of founding a “Bruno Kreisky Prize for Services to Human Rights” came up before the former Federal Chancellor's 65th birthday. At that time, Bruno Kreisky refrained from gifts. A reason for the then Mayor of Vienna, Leopold Gratz, and the President of the Austrian Trade Union Federation, Anton Benya, to suggest a foundation and a human rights prize that should bear Kreisky's name.

At that time – in the mid-1970s – human rights violations in the dictatorships of Central and South America, the suppression of civil rights and freedoms in the communist states and in the apartheid system in southern Africa were the focus of attention. It is therefore not surprising that the first prizewinners included prominent personalities as well as organizations that worked for political prisoners and against politically motivated persecution. Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez of Chile, Issam Sartawi of Palestine, Arie Lova Eliav of Israel and Archbishop Miguel Obando y Bravo of Nicaragua were among the first recipients, along with Amnesty International and others.

The fact that Bruno Kreisky stood up for the politically persecuted is also rooted in his biography. He was imprisoned for 15 months by the Dollfuss regime in 1935 and for a further five months by the National Socialists in 1938 and finally driven into exile in Sweden, from where he only returned in 1951.

This year's winners include individuals and organizations who have made a valuable contribution to the care of refugees. In his last laudatory speech, which Bruno Kreisky was only able to send to the award winners in writing in 1986, he addressed the oppressors: "Anyone who has lived a relatively long life and has been able to measure many ups and downs knows that the gagged spirit rises. Let me close with the word of promise that has inspired many of us all our lives: For you do not kill the Spirit, you brothers and sisters.”