25 women’s rights NGOs announce the winner of the Women’s Rights Prize: Zarifa Ghafari, Afghanistan’s youngest mayor

GENEVA, March 21, 2022 – A coalition of 25 human rights organizations announced today that their prestigious women’s rights award will go this year to Zarifa Ghafari, Afghanistan’s youngest female mayor and survivor of three Taliban assassination attempts.

Ghafari will receive the 2022 International Women’s Rights Award from the Geneva Summit on Human Rights and Democracy at a ceremony on Wednesday, April 6, during which she will address UN diplomats, to human rights activists and journalists from around the world attending the 14th annual event.

Ghafari was chosen for her “fearless advocacy for women’s rights in Afghanistan, a cause for which she has sacrificed so much, and for being an inspiring example to women and girls around the world,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of United Nations Watch, co-organizer of the conference with Liberal International, the Human Rights Foundation and more than 20 other human rights groups.

“It is an honor to receive this award on behalf of the unspoken Afghan people, the brave women who have always sacrificed their lives for the well-being of the country. Women who can’t leave their homes, can’t work, can’t express themselves,” Ghafari said.

“Using this platform, I want to spread a message of unity, love and peace to everyone, the Taliban, the people and those who really care about Afghanistan. I mean please, let us work together, men and women, so that we can have a bright today and a bright future,” she continued.

Ghafari was named mayor of Maidan Shahr, a town in the conservative Taliban territory, in July 2018. Protests and death threats because of her age and gender – she was just 26 – delayed her to take office but were ultimately unable to curb his desire to take office.

After taking office, she was targeted by the Taliban and IS, surviving three assassination attempts. His father was killed by Taliban gunmen in retaliation for his refusal to step down.

When the Taliban took power in mid-August, fighters arrived at Ghafari’s home looking for him. She was forced to flee into exile in Germany, describing the moment as “more painful than losing my father”. She has since courageously returned to Afghanistan to coordinate humanitarian aid efforts.

Previous winners of the International Women’s Rights Award include Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad, who fights to free women from forced hijab laws; Congolese activist Julienne Lusenge, who fights rape as a weapon of war; and Pakistani activist Gulalai Ismail, who trains women in human rights leadership.

Ghafari will join other courageous human rights defenders from around the world at this year’s Geneva summit, including dissidents, activists, victims and relatives of political prisoners from Cuba, Russia, China , Saudi Arabia and Nicaragua, who will testify on the human rights situation in their countries.

The global gathering is hailed as a unique opportunity to hear from and meet frontline human rights defenders, many of whom have personally been imprisoned and tortured. “It’s a focal point for dissidents around the world,” Neuer said.

The annual conference will be held on the heels of the main annual session of the UN Human Rights Council, which includes China, Cuba and Russia as members.

Videos of testimonials from past speakers are available on the Geneva Summit YouTube channel.

Admission to this year’s April 6 Summit is free and open to the public, but registration is required. The conference will also be available via live webcast.

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