Annual report 2021
© Bahia Shehab, You May Crush the Flowers, But You Cannot Delay the Spring (verse by poet Pablo Neruda), 2011. Cairo. Calligraffiti.
Dear friends and supporters,
Reflecting on 2021, what first comes to mind are those we lost. Our friend Alaa al-Siddiq, prominent Emirati human rights defender who was forced to live in exile, yet remained one of the most courageous advocates for prisoners of conscience in the Gulf. She could not say goodbye to her father, who has been arbitrarily detained in the UAE for nearly a decade. Jaseb Hattab al-Hejili, whom we had helped in the search for his missing son, was shot dead in Iraq because he was his most vocal advocate. Jordanian journalist Taysir Salman, who passed away due to health issues two years after being released from prison in the UAE, where he had been arbitrarily detained for three years. Lokman Slim, a Hezbollah critic, who was assassinated in Lebanon. Muhammad al-Nuaimi, who passed away without seeing his parents and siblings since 2014, because of a travel ban imposed in reprisal for his father’s activism. Musa al-Qarni, who was left to die in a Saudi prison after nearly 15 years of arbitrary detention. May they rest in peace.
While they come from different places and walks of life, they all were either fierce advocates for truth and justice, or victims of authoritarian regimes. While their loss leaves us with a profound sense of sadness and grief, they remain an inspiration for us all and shall guide our efforts to continue fighting for the respect of human rights in the MENA region.
2021 also marked 10 years since popular protests known as the “Arab Spring” erupted throughout the region. When confronted with the fact that universal human rights are still far from being a reality, and that “defeats” seem to outnumber “successes”, our team is often asked how to remain optimistic. The first answer is: What is the alternative? Giving up is not an option. If grassroots activists operating in heavily repressive environments continue to risk their lives and security, if families never lose hope of seeing their loved ones freed despite the suffering they endure, the least we can do is support them in their fight for freedom and justice. The second one is: Success can be seen through many lenses. Someone being released from prison, a phone call received by the family after a loved one was missing for a long time, successfully litigating a case, raising awareness on abuses to end impunity: every single victory counts.
This is why our team remains committed to serving and supporting victims and their families, and continues working towards fostering change in societies across the MENA region. We are thankful to victims and their families for placing their trust in us. We are also grateful for the community we are a part of, and with whom we will continue to fight injustice. We feel privileged, humbled, and inspired, to work everyday alongside partners, lawyers, and civil society activists. We have no doubt that as part of a joint community, we will continue to make progress towards ensuring that people enjoy the effective recognition and respect of their rights and freedoms.
I also wish to warmly thank each and every one of our supporters as well as our passionate and dedicated board and team members, without whom all of our achievements would not have been possible.
Co-founder and director