This year’s recipient of the Human Right Tulip is Mideast Youth, a Hivos partner since its very beginning in 2006.
The Human Rights Tulip is an annual prize awarded by the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs to courageous and innovative human rights defenders. Foreign minister Bert Koenders handed the prize on 9 December, 2014 to Mideast Youth representative Esra’a Al Shafei (b. 1986) She is considered one of the most influential internet activists in the Arab world and was chosen from amidst the six shortlisted nominees (from 160 nominations received). She is the voice of a new generation that uses social media, design and music to highlight controversial issues, with the internet as their platform and arena.
‘The dramatic global decline in the observance of human rights requires an unconventional approach to tackling violations. Mideast Youth excels at this,’ said Mr Koenders. The chair of the international jury, Frank La Rue, until recently the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, dedicated a very inspirational speech to Ms Al Shafei. He underscored the importance of Mideast Youth’s work in the conflict-affected region and highlighted the International Jury’s arguments for this year’s choice. Esra’a affirmed that the prize is not just hers or Mideast Youth’s, but a token of recognition for all the human rights defenders who struggle for more democratic liberties and social reform.
For Mideast Youth, the internet and social media are the primary tools for opening up debates, raising awareness and offering space for activists. Mideast Youth builds online platforms to give a voice to a rapidly growing network of mostly young people who are working to promote a broad range of human rights. The platforms offer a safe space where young people can talk about issues that are often still taboo in most parts of the Middle East, such as recognition of rights for LGBT people, equal rights for religious and ethnic minorities, and protections for labour migrants living in harsh conditions in many parts of the Middle East. The websites are accessible, attractive and interactive, to ensure that these positive messages are both expressed and heard.
Hivos is proud of its partner organisation and will support Mideast Youth in developing and implementing a project worth 100.000 euro, to be financed by the Dutch foreign ministry.