The U.S. State Department’s 2012 Human Rights Defenders Award has been presented to Syrian activist Hanadi Zahlout.
The U.S. State Department’s 2012 Human Rights Defenders Award has been presented to Syrian activist Hanadi Zahlout. The annual award is given to those who protect and defend human rights in the face of extreme adversity.
Ms. Zahlout has been a vigorous promoter of freedom of expression and other fundamental rights since before Syria was engulfed in violence in 2011 -- when peaceful antigovernment protesters were met with brutal force by Bashar al Assad.
At the award ceremony, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns noted that, in the face of the Assad government’s efforts to conceal its crackdown on the demonstrators, “Ms. Zahlout documented the regime’s abuses, using social media to bring them to the attention of the Syrian people and the world. [Her] images and testimonies from the frontlines of the Syrian Revolution shocked the world’s conscience and rallied international condemnation of the Assad regime.”
Despite being arrested multiple times, Ms. Zahlout continued to work with the opposition’s Local Coordination Committees across the country to expose the regime’s brutality and promote reconciliation and peace. While in jail, she took up the cause of political prisoners, demanding improved conditions and medicine for women inmates. Now in exile, she links grassroots activists inside Syria with international media, mentors young Syrian journalists, and works to promote dialogue among the opposition.
Deputy Secretary Burns noted that as a member of Syria’s Alawite minority, Ms. Zahlout “did not struggle and sacrifice for sect or tribe but for a Syrian nation where the rights of all -– Sunni and Shia, Alawite and Druze, Muslim and Christian – are protected. So, while the regime and extremists work to tear Syria apart, Ms. Zahlout and her peers work to repair its social fabric and build a new, democratic and tolerant Syria.”
Mr. Burns said, “On behalf of Secretary [John] Kerry and the American people, it is my privilege to present Ms. Zahlout with the Human Rights Defender Award for “her tireless commitment to a peaceful transition in Syria, at great personal cost. The creativity, determination, and bravery demonstrated in her work are critical to the reconstruction of Syria’s social fabric and process of reconciliation.”