At a prestigious event in Geneva’s Bâtiment des Forces Motrices, performances by Venezuelan singer Danny Ocean and Swiss musician Flèche Love set the scene for a celebration of Azizbek Ashurov’s ground-breaking work.
Ashurov was chosen for his outstanding 16-year commitment to ending statelessness in Kyrgyzstan, ensuring that those left stateless by the break-up of the former Soviet Union finally have citizenship.
Presenting the award, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Ashurov’s story “one of great personal resolve and tenacity.”
“His commitment to the cause of eradicating statelessness in Kyrgyzstan – an achievement secured in partnership with the Kyrgyz government and others across the country – is a compelling example of the power of an individual to inspire and mobilise collective action,” said Grandi.
Ashurov runs Ferghana Valley Lawyers Without Borders, an organization first established in 2003 to offer free legal advice. It began tackling statelessness in 2007. In 2014, funding from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, helped to set up mobile legal clinics and map the problem.
A team of lawyers worked tirelessly, juggling up to 10 cases per day. Together, they scoured the Central Asian country to find people living deep in the shadows without papers. This year, in July, the last people without documents in Kyrgyzstan finally received citizenship – thanks in great part to Ashurov and his team.
“It is hard for me to describe how proud I am right now – and hard to describe the great responsibility I feel,” Ashurov told a rapt audience after receiving the award. “My young independent nation is facing many challenges. But it still found the political will to end statelessness.”