The Moore Prize 2020 for Writing on Human Rights

11th January 2021

The Moore Prize was established to encourage original, creative, and courageous writing of fiction and non-fiction about the relationship of power to the lives of ordinary citizens in all parts of the globe; and to encourage authors to investigate and analyze the causes of conflict, abuse and violation of human rights. The winner of the Prize receives £1,000.

The judges of the Moore Prize 2020 have announced that Going Home: A walk through fifty years of occupation, Profile Books, (2019) by Raja Shehadeh is the winning book. A summary of the books by Catherine Morris, the Chairperson of the judging panel, is supported by all of the judges.

This year’s finalists for the Moore Prize are a diverse set of fictions that attest, individually and collectively, to the resilience of the human spirit and value of human dignity when these are most imperiled. Our imaginations are challenged and our capacities for empathy and sympathy enlarged in unexpected ways by reading these imaginative and ambitious writers. The other four short-listed titles for the Moore Prize 2020 were: Monique Villa, Slaves Among Us: The Hidden World of Human Trafficking, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2019; Ahmet Altan, trans. Yasemin Congar, I Will Never See the World Again: The Memoir of an Imprisoned Writer. Other Press, 2019; Carlos Sardiña Galache, The Burmese Labyrinth: A History of the Rohingya Tragedy, Verso Books, 2020; and Kai Strittmatter, trans. Ruth Martin, We Have Been Harmonized: Life in China's Surveillance State, Exeter, UK: Old Street Publishing, 2019.

Going Home: A walk through fifty years of occupation. Profile Books, (2019) by Raja Shehadeh

On behalf of the Moore Prize 2020 judging panel, Catherine Morris issued this statement:

On the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories Raja Shehadeh went for a walk in Ramallah. Shehadeh’s captivating narrative chronicles his day of walking through his home city on 5 June 2017. The landmarks he passes evoke anecdotes and reflections on the everyday impact of occupation on his family, his neighbours, and his professional life. His reflections roam through 50 years of “political defeats, frustrations and failures” after the Six Day War, including the periods of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization, the never-solved murder of his father in 1986, the Oslo Accords, the two Intifadas, the Israeli settlements that continue to be “ever expanding” into occupied territory, the daily commutes of workers on foot through checkpoints, and soldiers’ killings of civilians including children. As the author describes walking by the office of Al Haq, the human rights organization he founded, he reflects on the futility of decades of human rights activism to date but articulates hope for Al Haq’s preparation of a war crimes case for the International Criminal Court. He imagines that “success in one case… would surely deter more soldiers from so brazenly violating Palestinian human rights.” 

This book was selected as the winner of the Moore Prize 2020 because of the beauty of its writing and the author’s ability to convey the everyday realities of generations of ordinary Palestinians living under occupation. Readers will not come away from this book with a multi-party history, an analysis of Palestinian resistance to occupation, or a catalogue of human rights violations. Instead, the poignant power of Raja Shehadeh’s memoir draws the reader towards a sense of intimacy with the city and people of Ramallah trying to live their lives in dignity and peace. 

The 2020 Moore Prize’s distinguished panel of judges:

Catherine Morris has been engaged in teaching, research, monitoring and advocacy on international human rights since 2004. She works in Canada and internationally in academic, community, non-profit, public and private sectors. She is the Executive Director of Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada and has represented LRWC at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva since 2011. She has been a leader in the field of conflict resolution since 1983 and is the founder of Peacemakers Trust, a Canadian non-profit organization for education and research in conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

Jonathan Head is the South East Asia Correspondent for BBC News. He was formerly the BBC Indonesia Correspondent, South East Asia Correspondent, Tokyo Correspondent and Turkey Correspondent, with over 20 years' experience as a reporter, programme editor and producer for BBC radio and television. Jonathan won a Peabody Award in 2019 for his role on the BBC’s “Plight of Rohingya Refugees” coverage of the refugee crisis in Burma.

Djamila Ribeiro has a master's degree in Political Philosophy from the Federal University of São Paulo. She is the coordinator of the Sueli Carneiro editorial Seal and the Plural Feminisms Collection. She is the author of several books, such as “Lugar de Fala” (Seal Sueli Carneiro / Pólen Livros), “Who's afraid of Black Feminism?” and “A Short anti-racist guide” (both by Companhia das Letras). She is also a guest professor in the journalism department at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (PUC-SP). A Columnist for Folha de S. Paulo newspaper and Elle magazine, Djamila became the Deputy Assistant of Human Rights for the city of  São Paulo in 2016. She was awarded the 2019 Prince Claus Award, granted by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and considered by the BBC one of the 100 most influential women in the world, the same year. 

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