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Ayat Osman

HRD & Founding Member
Genoubia Hora
International Women's Day Campaign

Ayat Osman is a Nubian activist and founding member of Genoubia Hora, the first organised feminist group in Aswan, in south Egypt. She helped found the organisation in 2013 in response to what WHRDs call “widespread acceptance” of both police violence and violence against women. Ayat was also a leading member of the Nubian Caravan, a protest movement campaigning for the rights of the Nubian people — an indigenous minority in Egypt — to return to their land.

In the early 1900s, Egypt began constructing a set of massive dams near Aswan. By 1970, more than 50,000 Nubians had been forcibly relocated away from their homes on the Nile. They lost their houses, their farms, and their livelihoods. In November 2016, Seham and other Nubian rights defenders in Aswan organised a “Nubian Caravan,” driving dozens of cars towards their indigenous Nubian land. As much of their territory has been placed under military control, the Nubian Caravan was caught between a series of check-points and forced to turn back after more than three days in the desert. Female participation in the protest was not large. Still, Ayat has been at the forefront of the struggle for land rights and the right to return. She and other feminist WHRDs argue that the critical intersection of indigenous rights and women's rights must be central to the struggle for return, because women have been those most affected by the mass displacement.

A significant crackdown on civil society in Egypt has been taking place since 2014. HRDs face an extremely challenging situation due to restrictions imposed on civil society and peaceful public gatherings and protests, travel bans, the arrest and sentencing of HRDs, bloggers, journalists and protesters, as well as an ongoing smear campaign against human rights groups.