Ragia Omran speech at the Award Ceremony

Make Art Speak Up.. Sixth Movie and the last .. 16 days of activism
December 10, 2017
16 days of activism ending
December 13, 2017

Ambassador Luy
Ambassador Romatet
Members of the National Council for Human Rights
My dearest family, friends and esteemed colleagues
It is with great honor that I stand before you today to accept the Franco German Prize for Human Rights
and the Rule of Law and to join my fellow laureates from around the world, who have been recognized
for their diligence and perseverance in defending human rights, today on the 69
th anniversary of the
Universal Declaration for Human Rights. The field of human rights has reached a crossroads: we are
struggling to protect and defend the basic rights that were taken for granted just decades ago. As
terrorism, hate crimes and violence escalate, and as countries increase their spending on arms and
weapons while millions live in poverty, have become stateless or refugees, suffer from malnutrition and
don’t have access to water, shelter and education, the need for tolerance, acceptance, dialogue and
peaceful resolution of conflicts is crucial now more than ever.
Over the last few years, we have seen extreme populism, xenophobia and intolerance rear its ugly head
in almost every corner of the globe. These past few years have also been especially dark and challenging
times for Egypt’s human rights community and for civil society as a whole. Our human rights centers have
been shut down, our voices of opposition silenced, and our ability to organize and protest severely
curtailed. My colleagues in the human rights community have faced travel bans, asset freezes and
repeated interrogation under the guise of the infamous NGO Case 173. All of this has been in the name
of state security, stability and fighting terrorism. As the people who form the backbone of the human
rights community since the late 1980’s, my fellow human rights defenders continue to work under
extremely challenging restrictions and frustrating conditions because they continue to believe in the
mission of defending human rights…all human rights: economic social political civil cultural rights.
Some people speak about the hypocritical nature of politics; however, I do not use such terms. I am a pragmatic
person too; but it is not pragmatic to sell arms to warring factions in countries mired in terrible conflicts where
children are dying and then support a human rights investigation at the same time … it is counterproductive to
give a human rights award but be selective about rights, to talk the talk, but not walk the walk. I fully understand
that the responsibility for any government is primarily to its citizens, factories, and the business community, but
short terms gains at the expense of other people and countries rights are not only short term but they also
backfire, and backfire badly. Human rights are not merely values and ideals. They are integral to stability of
markets and nations and to our common fate on this planet.

Despite the disheartening picture, however, there is still hope. I stand before you today as a proud
member of Egypt’s human rights community that continues to fight, grow and shine in the face of
adversary and hardship. My mentors and colleagues—and there are too many to list here but you know
who you are—continue being selected for an array of international awards. The international
community’s recognition of Egyptian human rights defenders and journalists for prestigious awards is not
merely a vote of confidence in the community but it is also a reminder that our journey is a long one and
that we will need everyone’s help to reach our final destination.
I accept this award today in the name of so many different people in my life who have helped to support
my work. First, I accept this award in the name of my family –especially my wonderful parents—who
have always believed in and supported me. Mom and Dad, this is for the countless sleepless nights you’ve
spent waiting for me to come home from police stations and far flung corners of the country. You have
instilled in me deep love of country, a strong sense of justice and overwhelming faith in humankind – and
it is thanks to these values and your support that I am able to do what I do. To my siblings, who bear with
me and my crazy lifestyle and especially my sister Dana: my confidant, advisor and sounding board, to you
I am eternally grateful.
Second, I accept this award in the name of all my mentors, many of whom are also here today. Today, in
this room, we are in the presence of four generations of human rights lawyers and activists. They have
faithfully carried the torch from one generation to the next, continuing to grow, learn and pass on wisdom
and knowledge and share experience and expertise as we continue to struggle for the Egypt we dreamed
of in Tahrir. I have learned so much from each and every one of you: From Aida Guindy, Aziza Hussein
and Marie Assad I learned the importance of volunteerism and civic engagement. From Aida Seif ElDawla,
Nawla Darwiche ,Hala Shukrallah and Amal Abdelhadi and my colleagues at the New Woman Foundation,
I learned to speak out, break taboos and claim a space for women activists. All of these women come
from a proud tradition of strong Egyptian women selflessly dedicated to improving the lives of their
communities and spreading the values of justice, dignity and equality for all Egyptians. From the late
human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif and labour rights lawyer Sayed Fathy -both were students of the leftist
lawyer Nabil El Helaly, one of the pillars of pro bono legal assistance to those in need- I learned that the
role of a human rights lawyer doesn’t stop in the courtroom or the prosecution office; it continues beyond
to prisons and police stations and anywhere where there is a need to defend and speak out against
violations. I hope that I can carry on the principles and values that these inspirational Egyptians have
ingrained in me to the next generation of activists and human rights defenders

Third, I accept this award in the name of the countless lawyers, activists and ordinary citizens who are
fighting in the trenches. Since January 25, 2011 I have met countless Egyptians who have taught me to be
brave in the face of adversity and hopeful in the face of despair. Whether it is the activists who organized
protests, the housewives who sent food, money and medicine to sustain the protests, the journalists and
photographers who risked all to get the story and the real picture out, the lawyers who spend countless
nights in prisons and courts to free detainees – I have never failed to be inspired by the conviction and
generosity of spirit of Egyptians. You are the heroes who give me hope.
Finally, and most importantly, I accept today’s award in the name of the thousands of prisoners who
languish in our prisons, waiting for the scales of justice to tip in their favor. To name a few: Alaa
Abdelfatah, Ahmed Doma, Showkan, Mahinour El Masry, Amr Ali, Mohamed Yassin and the list is
endless. I accept this award for all Egyptians who have sacrificed their eyes, their lives and their livelihoods
to a better Egypt and the brave students, activists, lawyers, doctors, workers and journalists who are in
prison, paying a heavy price for the principals of freedom and human dignity. We are fighting for an Egypt
where young inquisitive minds can be educated to think, to question and to push boundaries; a country
where the rule of law protects people regardless of their gender, religion, ethnicity or political affiliation.
Most importantly, we are fighting for an Egypt where every Egyptian can be treated with respect, dignity
and justice.
I would like to leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Robert F. Kennedy:
“Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against
injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of
energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression
and resistance.”
To the Egyptian human rights community, WE are the tiny ripples of hope…here is to building the current
that WILL sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
Thank you.