2022 Front Line Defenders Award
2022 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk
The 2022 Front Line Defenders Award Recipients
** Due to security concerns, Front Line Defenders will not be publicly announcing the identity of the award winner from Belarus.
Asia-Pacific: Liah Ghazanfar Jawad
Liah Ghazanfar Jawad is an Afghan woman human rights defender based in Kabul, Afghanistan. Over the past three decades, she has been the Executive Director of Feminine Solidarity for Justice Organization and has advocated for women's rights, raised awareness against sexual harassment in the workplace, forced marriage and child marriage, and provided psychological and medical treatment for victims of torture. She has done pivotal work towards raising the voices of women across Afghanistan for education, peace, and stability in the country.
She was also a member of several human rights committees whose work resulted in the enactment of the Children’s Law and laws prohibiting torture, violence against women, and sexual harassment. She worked on projects for access to justice in prisons for victims of torture, documentation of torture in national prisons, and providing psychotherapy and medical treatment to victims of torture in prisons. She received the Malalai Medal in 2015 from the government of Afghanistan as recognition of her human rights work.
In response to her work, she faced many threats against herself and her family. Despite being forced to relocate previously due to threats, she is determined to continue her human rights work after the Taliban takeover in August 2021. Liah is currently in Afghanistan and continues to support women victims of violence and persecution and advocate for their rights and protection. She has provided vital support including services, psychotherapy, and medical treatment for more than 80 displaced and threatened WHRDs, and HRDs, a majority of whom are women.
Middle East and North Africa: Ameira Osman Hamid
Ameira Osman Hamid is a woman human rights defender in Sudan, an engineer, and the Chairperson of the ‘’No to Women Oppression’’ Initiative. Ameira has consistently advocated for democracy, human rights, and women’s rights. Since its establishment in 2009, the NWO Initiative launched campaigns against the Public Order Law, which would dictate what was proper for women to wear and how to act in public life while also allotting power to citizens to report such behaviors.
The NWO Initiative was founded after Sudanese journalist Lubna Ahmed Al-Hussein and 13 other women were arrested and faced flogging for wearing trousers in public (a violation against the Public Order Law). In November 2019, the law was finally repealed. The Initiative also works with other NGOs and civil society organizations for the advocacy and advancement of women’s rights.
Ameira herself was previously a victim of human rights violations – in 2013, she was detained after she refused to put on her headscarf. Ameira and the NWO have launched numerous campaigns against the Public Order Law. For her work, Ameira has been a victim of unjust arrests and detention. In 2002, she was charged for wearing trousers, and in January 2022 she was taken from her house in Khartoum to an unknown location by armed security officers before being released on bail a week later. Nevertheless, Ameira never deterred from her mission and actively participated in peaceful demonstrations.
Africa: Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ)
The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) is a trade union working for the improvement of poor wages and the working conditions of rural teachers as well as the right to education in rural areas of Zimbabwe. Founded in 2009, the union now counts about 35,000 members and operates in 10 provinces.
Since the beginning of the Zimbabwe crisis and the perceived waning of support for the ruling ZANU-PF party, professional unions, HRDs and civil society in general have been targeted when they became vocal about poor governance, corruption, the deterioration in human rights and other issues. ARTUZ members have been arrested and attacked for their work.
ARTUZ has pushed for the adoption of the Education Equalization Fund, which would support young girls and pregnant girls in receiving an education. The union also developed and distributed the Remote Teaching Toolkit, which trained 1,800 teachers on remote teaching techniques during the pandemic. In 2015, ARTUZ launched the Safe Schools campaign to prevent schools from being used as political means. In 2018, the union sued the electoral commission for denying teachers the right to vote during elections.
In the past 12 months, the union handled 132 cases of teachers who were forcibly transferred for being members of the union. 220 members have been arrested, detained and beaten by state security forces. In January 2022, 16 teachers who were part of a group of peaceful protestors protesting for a living wage were beaten, arrested and incarcerated. They were released on bail on Jan. 17, 2022.
Americas: Javier del Tránsito and María del Tránsito Salvatierra
Javier and María del Tránsito, human rights defenders from Salvatierra, Guanajuato, Mexico, had dedicated their lives to teaching. When the crisis of disappearances – a widespread phenomenon in Mexico whereby people are taken/disappear without warning – increased in their area and personally affected them, they shifted their energy to activism.
According to data from the National Search Commission (CNB), this year 372 people have been reported as disappeared in the state of Guanajuato. On Feb. 29, 2020, Maria and Javier’s daughter Guadalupe, also a teacher, went missing. In February 2021, Guadalupe's body was identified in a clandestine grave along with 80 other bodies. This highlighted the crisis that the government had failed to adequately address.
After finding their daughter, Javier, Mária Tránsito, and Javier's son (Javier Junior) continued searching for other disappeared persons. Javier Barajas Junior joined the State Search Commission to support other families of missing persons. Lamentably, this human rights work led to Javier being killed on May 29, 2021, by individuals linked to the disappearance of his sister. Javier and María del Tránsito then left the state to protect themselves.
Despite their personal pain and threats they faced, Javier and María del Tránsito have continued to demand truth and justice. They work with collectives searching for the disappeared and have shared their situation with the CED Committee, embassies and other authorities. They have promoted actions to make visible the plight of the families of the disappeared, the consequences of the illegal flow of arms from the USA, and risks faced by defenders.