From April 27 to May 4 we introduced you to seven remarkable women human rights defenders based in the Middle East, working for peace amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. As the world focuses on the pandemic, women human rights defenders continue to be beaten, arbitrarily detained, prosecuted, imprisoned or killed—all in an attempt to silence voices calling for peace, human rights and an end to gender discrimination. We must support these #FeministResponders.
We are so grateful to all those who have asked us, “How can I help?” during this crisis. The challenges that have always faced women human rights defenders remain — and are in fact even more serious now face as they face the double threat of persecution for their work, and the virus itself. We know that the context of the COVID-19 crisis has created increased financial difficulty for many. Read below to meet each of these inspiring activists and learn how you can support their work, through donations on #GivingTuesdayNow if you are able, and with solidarity and advocacy throughout the year. If you would like to support our work to raise the voices of #FeministResponders, please consider making a donation here. We are grateful for all you are doing — and we know, especially in times of uncertainty, people-power is always the best catalyst for change.
Meet Reem Al-Ksiri, Syria
Reem Al-Ksiri is a Syrian women’s human rights lawyer and expert on torture and arbitration. She works on holding crime perpetrators in Syria accountable and leads research at the Syrian Centre for Legal Studies.
“Women in prison, especially those imprisoned with children and those imprisoned for political reasons, are at present in a catastrophically dangerous situation due the COVID-19 pandemic. The only adequate and realistic solution is the release of all political and pre–trial detention prisoners.” – Reem Al-Ksiri.
Meet Yanar Mohammed, Iraq
Yanar Mohammed is a prominent Iraqi feminist. She is a co-founder and the director of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), which runs underground women’s shelters to provide refuge to women fleeing honour killings, sex trafficking, and other forms of violence.
“This situation is double jeopardy. As Women Human Rights Defenders, we are still trying to do our work while the government is threatening us and trying to shut us down, and at the same time COVID-19 has locked us up in our homes.” – Yanar Mohammed.
Meet Mozn Hassan, Egypt
Mozn Hassan is a prominent Egyptian feminist human rights defender. She is the founder of Nazra for Feminist Studies. Mozn was active in the 2011 Egyptian revolution protests and worked to support those who were sexually assaulted at the time. She is currently under an asset freeze and travel ban for her work.
“In times of COVID-19, we, feminists around the world are thinking of those who have been paying the price for their long-term struggles such as imprisoned WHRDs. When priorities shift, we need not to forget WHRDs who have been jailed because of their legitimate activism. We need to call for their release.” – Mozn Hassan.
Meet Omaima Al Najjar, Saudi Arabia
Omaima Al Najjar is an exiled Saudi human rights activist, blogger and physician. In 2011, she organized a movement to end the travel ban imposed on women in Saudi Arabia. She was arrested and briefly detained for bringing attention to human violations by the Saudi Arabian government on her blog.
“The Saudi government will take advantage of this situation to further violate rights in Saudi Arabia because the world is busy with COVID-19.” – Omaima Al Najjar.
Meet Muna Luqman, Yemen
Muna Luqman is a Yemeni peacebuilder and activist for women, peace and security. She is the Founder and Chairperson for Food4Humanity and cofounder of the Women Solidarity Network, the largest network of women in Yemen.
“The challenges are immense now. The advocacy for women defenders has been affected by so many cancellations of events and the focus on COVID-19 will make them vulnerable and more isolated to face the threats of warring parties on their own.” – Muna Luqman.
Muna also joined us for a Twitter live Q&A discussion on Friday, May 1st to discuss the impact of COVID-19 in Yemen. You can listen here.
Meet Fahima Hashim, Sudan
Fahima Hashim is a Sudanese feminist who has devoted her life to women’s equality and rights, particularly young women. She led the Salamah Women’s Resource Center in Sudan (closed by the government in 2014) which ran a successful campaign to reform laws on rape.
“Women in prison are at great risk for the spread of COVID-19. This is due to several reasons: the bad conditions of the prison, lack of ventilation, overcrowding and difficulty for physical distancing, cleanliness, and no access to health services.” – Fahima Hashim.
Meet Maryam Shafipour, Iran
Maryam Shafipour is an Iranian human rights activist. She was sentenced to 7 years in prison for her political views in March 2014 and was released from Evin Prison in 2015. She continues to advocate for the release of Iranian women political prisoners such as Narges Mohammadi.
“Although Iran has released a few prisoners due to the pandemic, most political prisoners are still in jail. COVID-19 has become a tool in the hands of the Iranian authorities to do more harm to political prisoners. The government of Iran is using COVID-19 to kill political prisoners.” – Maryam Shafipour.