Sudan women's activist Amira Osman wins human rights prize

AFP , Saturday 28 May 2022

Sudanese women's activist Amira Osman Hamed has won a Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk, the organisation announced Friday.

Amira Osman Hamed
File Photo:Sudanese activist Amira Osman Hamed speaks with an AFP journalist during an interview in Khartoum on September 8, 2013, when she faced potential flogging under Sudanese law for leaving her hair uncovered . AFP


The activist and engineer, now in her forties, has advocated for Sudanese women for two decades and was detained this year in a crackdown following the country's latest military takeover.

She was among defenders from Afghanistan, Belarus, Zimbabwe and Mexico who also received the 2022 award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk.

Osman "never deterred from her mission," Dublin-based Front Line Defenders said in its awards announcement, "consistently (advocating) for democracy, human rights, and women's rights."

After first being charged for wearing trousers in 2002, she drew international support in 2013 when she was detained and threatened with flogging for refusing to wear a headscarf.

Both charges fell under morality laws during the rule of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir who took power in an Islamist-backed coup. Osman told AFP that the morality laws had "changed Sudanese women from victims to criminals" and targeted "the dignity of Sudanese people."

In 2009 she established "No to Women Oppression", an initiative to advocate against the much-derided Public Order Law. It was finally repealed in 2019 after Bashir's ouster following a mass uprising.

Women were at the forefront of protests that toppled Bashir, and hopes were high for a more liberal Sudan as restrictions that had stifled their actions and public lives were removed.

But many fears for the hard-won liberties gained since his ouster after the October takeover led by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan derailed a fragile transition to civilian rule.

A crackdown on civilian pro-democracy figures has followed, with at least 96 people killed in protests and hundreds detained.

In late January 2022, Osman's team told AFP that "30 masked armed men" had stormed into her house in Khartoum in the middle of the night, "taking her to an unknown location."

The United Nations mission to Sudan called for her release, tweeting that "Amira's arrest and pattern of violence against women's rights activists severely risk reducing their political participation in Sudan."

She was freed in early February and an AFP correspondent saw her participating in a demonstration, kneeling on crutches due to a prior back injury.

The award has honoured human rights defenders annually since 2005.

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