The memory of late Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov was honored in Washington Tuesday on the 25th anniversary of the human rights prize awarded annually in his name.
Members of Congress joined officials from the European Parliament, which sponsors the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
Nigerian human rights lawyer Hauwa Ibrahim, who won the prize in 2005, told VOA it changed her life. She said the prize gave her the chance to travel to 50 countries to talk about issues important to her, including fighting illiteracy and global poverty.
2002 laureate Oswaldo Paya Sardinas was a Cuban political activist killed in a 2012 car accident that his family says happened under suspicious circumstances.
His daughter, Rosa Maria Paya, says her father regarded the Sakharov prize as a recognition by the world's democracies that Cubans want and need human rights.
The latest Sakharov prize winner is Malala Yousafzai - the Pakistani schoolgirl shot and seriously wounded by the Taliban for campaigning for education for girls.
Andrei Sakharov developed the hydrogen bomb for the Soviet Union, but became an activist for peace, disarmament and human rights when he realized the destructive powers of the weapon.
In 1975, Sakharov won the Nobel Peace Prize, but was sent to internal exile by the Kremlin. He was later freed, and died in 1989.