Less than a year ago, we Women Human Rights Defenders from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region met to launch our regional coalition, and by that we defied all odds. Since the so called Arab spring, and our region has witnessed an increase in violence and decrease in protecting human rights. Amidst the grim reality of our region, the regional coalition is adamant to bring hope to WHRDs in the MENA region, who are now not only facing gender based violence existing in their communities and families and that which exists in discriminatory laws, but are also facing more violence as a result of the political tension and increased tendencies in the various states across the MENA region to become militarized.
WHRDs in the region are now being targeted by both that state and non-state actors, and their work to defend and promote human rights is becoming more invisible. In Yemen, WHRDs are fleeing the country due to severe threats from militias, they have been threatened of being physically assaulted and murdered. Their participation in the affairs of their country has been halted due to the civil war. In Iraq, WHRDs are at risk of being targeted by militias and the Islamic State o Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) as they have been exposing the atrocities committed by these groups on Azidi women. In Egypt, WHRDs are targeted through travel bans and other forms of restrictions such as imprisonment, and smearing campaigns. In Lebanon, migrant domestic workers have been denied the right to establish their own worker’s union.
These violations are not the whole story; they are just snippets of how invisible the work of WHRDs has become, and how risky their lives are in most of the MENA region. On the International day of WHRDs, the coalition launches its website and asserts its presence in the digital sphere so that we ensure the work of WHRDs in the region is preserved and presented to the public, and that we wish to document their lives, and their work so that none of the great achievements that take place on a daily basis is forgotten, but mobilized-even if online – to encourage more women to defend human rights and to protect those brave women who are. We wish our online presence helps in reaching out to those in the shadows, and render their work inspiring news. We wish our website to become a hub for information about WHRDs in MENA region, where they can share information, resources, and opportunities made available for their protection and empowerment.
Long live the struggles of WHRDs Everywhere!
The Regional Coalition for WHRDs in the Middle East and North Africa!