On 22 October 2013, the winners of the first annual African Human Rights Defenders Award were announced in Banjul, the Gambia, following the opening session of the 54th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Awards are given by the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network. Winners are selected by a jury composed of the Chairperson of PAHRD-Net, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders.
Yara Sallam was nominated for the Front Line Defenders Award because of her central role in documenting the repression of anti-government protests. Her story reflects the experience of many human rights defenders in Egypt who are enduring a systematic and relentless attack on their freedoms. Civil society and the democracy movement is under attack amid escalating measures by the government that are effectively shutting down any democratic means for citizens to protest.
I do not feel any regret or self-defeat, the prison is not inside me.
Yara Sallam is a prominent feminist activist and human rights defender, who has worked for several Egyptian and international human rights organisations. She was Women Human Rights Defenders Program manager for the NGO Nazra for Feminist Studies; professional legal assistant at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in The Gambia; researcher on Freedom of Religion and Belief at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR); research assistant at the Institute of Research for Development (IRD). In 2013, she documented the violent repression of anti-government protests, which led to the deaths of over 1000 people. She provided technical assistance and commentary to a government committee formed to investigate the events of 2013 and led a project to document violations in Egypt over the past 30 years to develop an institutional memory of the events that led to the popular uprising in 2011. On June 21, 2014, she was arrested along with at least 30 other activists, during a peaceful demonstration. On 23 September 2015, she was released following a presidential pardon.