October 26, 2009 / 4:12 PM / 9 years ago

Iran director, Saharan singer up for rights prize

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Iranian film maker Mohsen Makhmalbaf and West Saharan singer Aziza Brahim are among the nominees for the Freedom to Create prize which will be awarded in London on November 25.

Makhmalbaf, who directed the acclaimed 2001 film “Kandahar,” has also acted as one of Iranian presidential challenger Mirhossein Mousavi’s leading supporters overseas since the disputed June 12 election.

He is up against four other nominees, announced on Monday, including singer Aziza Brahim, a Western Saharan born in exile in a refugee camp in Algeria.

Western Sahara has been the scene of Africa’s longest running territorial dispute since colonial power Spain left in 1975 and it was annexed by Morocco, which has censored Brahim’s songs for championing the rights of Saharawi refugees.

Also nominated are Yemen-born war photographer Karim Ben Khelifa, Afghan artist Sheenkai Alam Stanikzai and the “Kumjing Storytellers,” women from Myanmar’s largest minority the Shan people who used dolls to tell the story of how they were forced to flee their homes by the military regime.

The total prize pool for the awards is $125,000, of which $75,000 is shared among the winner and two runners up in the main prize category. A further $25,000 goes to the winner of the Youth Prize for artists under 18 and another $25,000 for the Imprisoned Artist Prize.

“Of most importance, the Prize ... celebrates the bravery of artists who pursue their craft despite great danger to themselves,” said the prize’s founder Richard Chandler.

The shortlists were drawn up from more than 1,000 entries.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White

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