Human Rights First Awards Prestigious Medal of Liberty to Egyptian Activist Kholoud Saber Barakat
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First announced today that it will award the 2014 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty to Egyptian women’s rights activist Kholoud Saber Barakat. The award will be presented at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on December 9, 2014. Saber was selected for her courageous work advocating for the rights of women and providing psychological support to sexual assault and rape survivors.
“The public space for civil society and civic participation in Egypt is increasingly dangerous, especially for women, who have been subjected to rampant sexual assault and harassment. Saber’s heroic work restores dignity to women who have been victims of these crimes and gives hope and strength to all those working for a free society in Egypt. We salute her bravery and perseverance, and we are honored to recognize her important work with this award,” said Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino.
“This award recognizes the vital importance of Saber’s work and that of other Egyptian human rights activists, especially women activists, who assume great personal risk in order to continue fighting for their voices to be heard,” said Michael Rozen, who chaired the 2014 Baldwin Award jury and is vice chairman of Human Rights First. “It is our hope that her continued work will one day lead to a safer, more open society in Egypt.”
Since the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 and the general deterioration in law and order that followed, there has been a disturbing increase in mob sexual violence against women in Egypt. Between June 28 and July 7, 2013, during mass demonstrations against then-President Mohamed Morsi, there were 186 documented cases of sexual assault. In response to the upsurge of violence against women, Saber has deployed her professional training to combat sexual violence, serving as an advocate for the rights of women and providing free psychological support to survivors of the mob sexual assaults and gang rapes. She continues that work today, helping victims to cope with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The increase in violent attacks, sexual assaults, and mob rape in public squares has made the struggle for space in the public sphere increasingly challenging for Egyptian women,” said Saber. “While my colleagues and I have been unable to put an end to the plague of sexual violence in Egypt, our efforts have brought these horrific crimes to the agendas of both the government and civil society. Winning this award means that our efforts are working, and gives me hope that one day we can create a public space in Egypt that is safe for all.”
The Medal of Liberty is named in honor of Roger Baldwin, principal founder of both the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the International League for Human Rights. The award was established in 1989 and is presented in alternating years by Human Rights First, which awards international human rights advocates, and the ACLU, which awards advocates in the United States. The 2014 Baldwin Jury was composed of prominent activists and members of the business and legal communities. The 2014 jury includes: Michael Rozen, Partner at Feinberg Rozen, LLP; Maryam Al Khawaja from the Gulf Center for Human Rights, winner of the 2012 Baldwin Award; Letty Ashworth, the General Manager for Global Diversity at Delta Air Lines; James Berman, COO of Select Equity Group, L.P.; Brenda Bodenheimer Zlatin Senior Program Officer of Jewish Life, Israel, and Human Rights at the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation; Bob Cusumano, former General Counsel of ACE Limited; Diana Daniels, Goldman Sachs Mutual Funds; Andrew McLaughlin, Partner betaworks and CEO of Digg and Instapaper; Sabina Menschel, Managing Director of K2 Intelligence; Aryeh Neier, President Emeritus of the Open Society Foundations; Jerzy Pomianowski, Executive Director European Endowment for Democracy (EED); and Sharon Weinberg, Managing Director of JPMorgan Private Bank Law Firms Group.