Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy, founder of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center), presented Egyptian human rights attorney Ragia Omran with an award to honour her work and commitment to human rights in Egypt. Ms Omran, a cutting edge advocate for advancing women’s rights and ending the use of military tribunals against civilians, was nominated in March 2013 for her two decades of advocacy, and was selected for the award on 24 June out of a field of 111 total nominations. The ceremony was held at the Kennedy Caucus Room at the Russell Senate Building in Washington DC, with journalist Soledad O’Brien as emcee.
“With dedication and courage, Ms Omran is often the first to arrive on the scene at jails, police stations, court houses, and military and civilian prosecution offices. Hundreds of peaceful activists have her to thank for successfully securing their release and protecting their rights to freedom of speech and association,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of the RFK Center. “She is a beacon of hope for the women of Egypt and a champion in the global human rights movement. We are proud to honour her with our 30th annual award.”
“Robert F. Kennedy and the Kennedy family have been a lifelong inspiration for me. They are a testament to the idea that one person can make a change in the community and that this change can eventually transform the world,” said Ragia Omran, 2013 RFK Human Rights Awardee. “It is with great honour and humility that I accept this award on behalf of all the courageous Egyptians who have come before me and who have worked alongside me.”
As a leading member of a number of Egypt’s legal advocacy organisations, Ms Omran and her colleagues at the Front to Defend Egypt Protesters have represented hundreds of civilians ordered to military trial, an increasing trend in Egypt following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.
Ms Omran has already achieved remarkable victories in her effort to promote equality and justice. She is a member of the No to Military Trials for Civilians Campaign, established in 2011 to provide legal support to detainees and to advocate against the use of military trials of Egyptian civilians. A year after the campaign launched, the group was recognised for raising awareness of the issue of civilian military trials under emergency law.
In addition, for over two decades, Ms Omran has worked to defend women’s rights in Egypt. In 1995, she helped lead the Egyptian Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Task Force, which successfully outlawed the practice in public hospitals in Egypt, a nation where 91 percent of women are victims of FGM.
Ms. Omran is currently a member of the New Woman Foundation (NWF) that works to defend women’s social, political, economic, and cultural rights, and was one of the first groups to speak publicly about violence against women in Egypt beginning in the 1990s. NWF has been actively advocating for increased civic participation for women and for women to have a say in the newly formed Egyptian government.
The RFK Center will provide ongoing, long-term support to Ms Omran in advocacy and strategic initiatives to help further her progress on a range of human rights issues, from women’s rights and protecting protestors, to ending the use of military trials for civilians.