U.S. actor and director George Clooney arrived in Armenia on Friday to announce, together with other world-famous persons, the winner of a new humanitarian award created in memory of the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey.
The international award, known as the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, was established last year by three prominent Diaspora Armenians: philanthropists Ruben Vardanyan and Noubar Afeyan and Vartan Gregorian, the president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. It is meant to honor individuals around the world who have saved many lives in wars, ethnic conflicts and other man-made disasters.
The prize is named after Aurora Mardiganian, an Armenian genocide survivor who witnessed the massacre of relatives and told her story in a book and film.
An international selection committee will award the prize on Sunday at a ceremony in Yerevan timed to coincide with commemorations in Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora of the 101st anniversary of the genocide.
The committee is co-chaired by Clooney and Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel prize laureate. Another Nobel laureate, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, and Australia’s former Foreign Minister Gareth Evans are also among its members.
Clooney was greeted at the Yerevan airport by Vardanyan as he began his first-ever trip to Armenia. The film star could be heard asking the Russian-Armenian businessman how to say “hello” in Armenian.
The committee selected four finalists for the first Aurora Prize from among about 200 persons last month. The finalists are Marguerite Barankitse, the founder of an orphanage in Burundi, Tom Catena, a U.S. doctor who has single-handedly treated thousands of people in Sudan, Syeda Ghulam Fatima, a Pakistani advocate of destitute workers, and Rev. Bernard Kinvi, a Catholic priest who has saved many Muslims in the Central African Republic.
The winner will receive $100,000 and designate an organization that inspired his or her work. The latter will be awarded $1 million.