For Immediate Release: June 21, 2011
New York, N.Y.—Human Rights First has selected a Pakistani journalist and an Egyptian human rights activist and blogger to receive the organization’s 2011 human rights awards. The group will honor this year’s recipients, Shehrbano Taseer and Basem Fathy, during an October event in New York City.
“Moral courage is forged in the crucible of change, and no one exemplifies that better than our 2011 human rights award honorees, Shehrbano Taseer of Pakistan and Basem Fathy of Egypt,” said Elisa Massimino, President and CEO of Human Rights First. “Risking their own safety and freedom to advance the freedom of their fellow citizens, Shehrbano and Basem are working to build societies based on human rights, tolerance and the rule of law. Human Rights First is honored to recognize the courage and leadership of these dedicated activists.”
Shehrbano Taseer, daughter of the late Pakistani Governor Salmaan Taseer—a reformer who was murdered by a member of his own security team for speaking out against the misuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws—is working to carry out her father’s legacy of tolerance in a dangerous environment of intolerance and hostility. In the months since her father’s slaying, Shehrbano has continued to speak out publicly against discriminatory laws that target religious minorities. She has published a series of op-ed pieces calling for change in Pakistan, and has openly criticized those who glorify her father’s murderer. Her outspoken defense of rights has led to multiple death threats by Islamist groups.
A graduate of Smith College, Shehrbano is currently a journalist with Newsweek Pakistan and channels her energies into educating people about the dangers of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Despite ongoing fears for her own safety and the security of her family, Shehrbano continues to fight to establish freedom, dignity, justice and fairness in Pakistan. Her courage has led some to characterize the young journalist as “one of the bravest women in today’s Pakistan.”
Human rights activist and blogger Basem Fathy has put his own freedom on the line to promote political freedom for all of his fellow Egyptians. Basem was detained multiple times by the Egyptian government before the January revolution, including in January 2010 after he paid his respects to the victims of the Christmas day sectarian massacre in upper Egypt. During the uprising, Basem coordinated logistics in El-Tahrir Square, countering the security forces by marshalling barrels to serve as shields, distributing helmets, and supplying vinegar for handling tear gas. He also supported the sit-in by coordinating the distribution of tents, sleeping materials and food. Basem Fathy then joined the Revolution Youth Coalition as a representative for El-Ghad Party Youth, and later became the president of the union. Basem worked closely on initiatives aimed at creating a new democratic political party before joining the Democratic Front Party.
A graduate of the University of Cairo, Basem works on projects for international organizations in Cairo and as a project consultant and board member of the Egyptian Democratic Academy (EDA). He has also worked as the Executive Editor-in-Chief for Elma7rosa.net Internet Radio.
For more than 20 years, Human Rights First has presented its annual human rights awards to courageous activists on the frontlines of the struggle for freedom. Former recipients include Julius Kaggwa from Uganda; Viktória Mohácsi from Hungary; Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam from Darfur; Ludmilla Alexeeva from Russia; Helen Mack from Guatemala; Archbishop Pius Ncube from Zimbabwe; Saad Eddin Ibrahim from Egypt; Albie Sachs from South Africa; Hina Jalani from Pakistan; and Mary Robinson from Ireland. This year’s Human Rights First awards ceremony will take place in New York City on Wednesday, October 26.