The name of Mustafa Nayyem, Ukrainian parliamentarian and former journalist, has been added to the list of distinguished winners of the Ion Ratiu Democracy Award, a prize given by the Woodrow Wilson Center, a prominent bi-partisan think-tank in Washington.
Named for Romanian democracy activist Ion Ratiu, the prize has previously been awarded to Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma and Oleg Kozlovsky of Russia, among others.
Mustafa Nayyem, the son of an Afghan father and Iranian mother, immigrated to Kyiv when he was eleven years old. A prominent journalist in Ukraine who founded the country’s first independent internet TV Channel, Mr. Nayyem has been called “the spark that lit the Maidan.”
In 2013 he wrote a Facebook post urging action after then- President Viktor Yanukovych summarily derailed Ukraine’s process of integration with the European Union. Mr Nayyem urged his countrymen to meet in the Maidan to protest the move. And they did. The demonstrations that followed and the government’s violent response, combined with its failure to engage in real dialogue with the opposition and its passage of anti-democratic legislation, led to the fall of the Yanukovych government.
Ukraine needs peace. Ukraine deserves peace.”
But Mr. Nayyem’s desire for democratic change did not stop at the barricades. Convinced of the need to transform social mobilization into democratic political reform, he decided to run for office, and won a seat in parliament.
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland introduced Mustafa Nayyem when he received the award at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
“Mustafa is now not just talking that talk. He is walking that walk. And a new generation of Ukrainian politicians is being born who is working for a broad support for the reforms that have to happen,” said Assistant Secretary Nuland. “Ukraine needs peace. Ukraine deserves peace,” she added. “Ukraine needs the time to restore dignity, to restore reform, to answer those voices on the Maidan, for politicians…like Mustafa to do their work.”