Now in its third year, the Aurora Prize, which is presented by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian genocide, comes with a $100,000 grant and a $1 million cash award that can be shared with an organization or organizations of the recipient's choice. Aung, who was recognized for his efforts to secure equality, education, and human rights for the Rohingya people in Myanmar, will donate his award to the London branch of Médecins Sans Frontières, Malaysian Medical Relief — MERCY Malaysia, and the Swiss and U.S. offices of the International Catholic Migration Commission.
"There are severe restrictions on my people. They have lost their courage and faith in themselves, have become illiterate, and, as a result, are penniless. It has been heartbreaking to see my community suffer from such discrimination," said Aung. "The support of the Aurora Prize serves as important recognition for all of the Muslim victims of human rights violations, as the plight of the Rohingya people continues to become more visible to the international public."
For decades, Aung has used his legal expertise to advocate for basic human rights for the stateless Rohingya, justice for the hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees in Myanmar persecuted by the government, and children who no longer have access to education. His outspokenness over the years has resulted in him spending a total of twelve years in prison.
"As we remember the horrors and violence experienced by Armenians — especially women and children — on the deportation route during the genocide, it is with a great sense of responsibility that we stand ready to support Kyaw Hla Aung's advocacy work, [which] will hopefully lead one day to the enactment of national and international policies to protect and defend the vulnerable," said Aurora Prize co-founder Vartan Gregorian, who is also president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and an Aurora Prize selection committee member. "Kyaw Hla Aung is doing tremendous work, at great risk to himself, and exemplifies the far-reaching impact one person can have to galvanize a movement and to help individuals transform their lives."