18 December, 2019
25 years of defending human rights: Rights activists, politicians and media figures from all over the world celebrate with CIHRS
Including UN Assistant Secretary-General Andrew Gilmour, Sudan’s Minister of Culture and Media Faisal Mohamed Saleh, and prominent Egyptian politician Mohamad El-Baradei
On its 25th anniversary, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies expresses its deep gratitude for the support and well-wishes it has received over the last three days. These heartwarming messages and memories were sent from around the region and the world, and included phone calls, messages on social media platforms, and dozens of audio recordings and photographs that were shared on social media accounts. CIHRS affirms that without the steadfast support and cooperation from all its local, regional and international partners, the institute would not have survived for a quarter of a century, especially in the context of confronting one of the most repressive and brutal dictatorships in the region.
Andrew Gilmour, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights and Head of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in New York, expressed his deep appreciation of CIHRS’ unwavering courage, work, and dedication to continuing the struggle for human rights and dignity, especially in the face of the repressive practices endemic to some state governments in the region. These practices encompass torture and imprisonment; censorship- including shutting down news and media outlets; stigmatizing any peaceful opposition as “terrorism;” and retaliation against human rights defenders.
Faisal Mohamed Saleh, Sudan’s Minister of Culture and Media, thanked CIHRS for the platform it provided, through which him and many others fought for human rights: “It was our shelter when we were homeless in exile; it was where we met with our comrades who are fighting for the freedom of our countries and for our people’s rights. We have met in Cairo, Beirut, Rabat, Khartoum, and many other cities.” Saleh then reaffirmed his gratitude to CIHRS, and especially to its founder, Bahey eldin Hassan.
Mohamed ElBaradei, a prominent liberal politician in Egypt, said in his message to the director: “I send my sincere congratulations and appreciation for what you have created, for your continued efforts in instilling human rights principles in our Arab world as values that are inclusive of all and act as a basis for national action.”
CIHRS also appreciates the supportive letters received from a number of prominent international human rights organizations, including: Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, International Service Organization, International Federation for Human Rights, IFEX, International Organization Against Torture, Middle East Democracy Project, Human Rights First, and the EuroMed Rights.
Many prominent human rights activists sent text and recorded messages to CIHRS: Rasmus Alenius Boserup, Executive Director of EuroMed Rights; Andrew Miller, Deputy Director for Policy at the Project on Middle East Democracy; Mazen Darwish, Syrian lawyer and free speech advocate, and President of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression; Nedal Al-Salman, President of Bahrain Center for Human Rights; Shawan Jabarin, General Director of Al-Haq Foundation (Palestine); Radhya Al-Mutawakel, President of Mwatana Organisation For Human Rights (Yemen); in addition to Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar, Executive Director of the Al Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment and Human Development (Sudan); Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairman of the Syrian Network for Human Rights; Lebanese human rights defender Habib Nassar, Sudanese activist Abdel Moneim el-Gakh, and Tunisian human rights advocate Messaoud Romdhani.
CIHRS has also received congratulatory messages from a number of prominent Egyptian rights advocates, including human rights advocate Azza Soliman: “Despite the oppression and misery in the Arab region, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights continues to find ways to support and strengthen the human rights movement in Egypt and the Arab region.”
Affirmative messages and words of support were also received by Negad El Borai, rights lawyer and director of the United Group for Law and Legal Consultation; Dr. Aida Seif al-Dawla, founder of the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture; human rights activist Gamal Eid, director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information; in addition to a number of public figures such as Mohamed Mahsoub, Egypt’s former Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, and Lebanese broadcast journalist Liliane Daoud.
CIHRS would also like to express its deep gratitude and appreciation for the hundreds of messages received from CIHRS’ graduates, trainees, researchers, staff, and volunteers throughout the course of over two decades, from Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, and Tunisia. Among them are board members Kamel Jendoubi, Honorary President of the Euro-Mediterranean Rights; Idris al-Yazmi, the head of the Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Protection of Defenders, and Palestinian human rights defender Randa Siniora.
The institute is especially honored by the messages from those who participated in CIHRS’ seminars, training courses, research projects or regional and international meetings. These persons are the returns of the hard work and continued success of CIHRS and its partners. Many of them have taken leading positions in new organizations or have carried the banner of defending human rights in their own countries. And some of them have paid, and are still paying, the price for their defense of human rights principles, including Mohammed Hassanein, founder of the Belady Foundation, and activist Mohamed Soltan, founder of the Freedom Initiative.
CIHRS was established in 1993 as an independent regional institution promoting respect for the principles of human rights and democracy; the institute began its operations the following year. The late prominent intellectual and rights advocate Mohamed El-Sayed Said laid CIHRS’ initial foundations and ideology, setting its intellectual and practical course. Over the next 25 years, CIHRS’ advocate library published more than 400 issues, and another 70 issues for the Rowaq Arabi Magazine, a specialized research journal, in addition Rowaq’s newly published issues online, and nearly 100 issues of Sawasia Magazine. CIHRS also published 12 annual reports on monitoring and evaluating the human rights conditions in the region, and dozens of other specialized qualitative online reports.
CIHRS held 22 summer school sessions serving university students (almost 1000 trainees) to raise awareness about human rights principles. CIHRS also held 10 specialized regional courses on the international mechanisms for defending human rights (more than 200 trainees), and three courses for new youth leaders for civil society. Furthermore, the institute provided dozens of specialized courses for lawyers, journalists, researchers, and teachers, while other courses focused on the human rights development in countries such as Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Sudan. Over the years, CIHRS has also carried out frequent meetings, and weekly and roundtable discussions through Salon Ibn Rushd, the Film and Human Rights Club, during which local and regional human rights issues were discussed.
Throughout the course of over two decades, CIHRS has focused on continuously developing teamwork and networking among different organizations through the establishment of several collective initiatives for joint action such as the Forum for Human Rights Organizations in Egypt, the Egyptian Human Rights Working Group, and the Libya Platform coalition.
CIHRS was keen to organize dozens of specialized regional and international meetings and conferences, discussing issues varying from terrorism and human rights, education, the future of human rights movements, political Islam, and democratization. CIHRS also encouraged and provided training for emerging human rights initiatives – which later evolved into pioneering human rights organizations – in Libya, Syria, Sudan, Palestine, and Bahrain.
Constant networking with regional and international organizations concerned with human rights has been one of CIHRS’ primary goals, through joint work with the different United Nations bodies, including the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner and special mandates. The institute also cooperates the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the Arab League.
CIHRS has been honored with a special consultative status in the United Nations Economic and Social Council and with an observer status in the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The institute was awarded with the French Republic Award for Human Rights in 2007, and the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, which was received by the director of its Egypt office in 2017.