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Press Release

A Sudanese Woman in her Fight against Despotism

The Human Rights Acivist Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim Receives the
Ibn Rushd Prize 2006

(Berlin) This year’s Ibn Rushd Prize will be awarded to the Sudanese political and human right activist Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, who distinguished herself by her enduring and unyielding fight for women’s rights, freedom of thought and social justice in Sudan and the Arab world. The prize winner, who will personally receive the award on Friday the 8th December 2006 in Berlin, was chosen by an international independent jury.

The Ibn Rushd Fund, named after the philosopher Ibn Rushd/Averroes (1126-1198), supports freedom of speech and democracy in the Arab world by annually awarding the Ibn Rushd Prize. The focus of the theme varies annually: So far, the prizes covered the fields of journalism, women's rights, politics, history, literature and philosophy. This year, the prize will be awarded to a politically engaged woman, who has rendered outstanding services to promoting democracy through her political work. This will be the eighth time the Ibn Rushd Prize is awarded.

Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim is one of the most important political figures in Sudan. Her political career began before the independence in 1956 when she, together with other Sudanese women, founded the Women’s Union in 1952 in a politically difficult climate and with unwavering courage and steadfastness helped to overcome obstacles of a slowly developing women’s movement. The magazine of the Union, Sawt al-mar’a (Woman’s Voice), whose chief editor in its first year in 1955 was Fatima Ibrahim, played a pioneer role in the resistance against Abboud’s military regime (1958-1964). The Union has survived three military governments, even though there were times when it’s activities remained underground. The Union also took part in the October-revolution of 1964. After the revolution women won the right to vote actively or passively in parliamentary elections.

In 1965 Fatima Ibrahim was the first woman to become Member of Parliament in the Sudan. Most of the bills she introduced were adopted in Basic Law in 1968 (for example the right to enter all fields of work, equal pay for equal work, maternity paid leave, provision of nurseries and Kindergartens and the rights of girls to higher education). Fatima also called for protection against compulsory marriage, marriage of minors and polygamy. However, soon after Al-Numairi’s coup d’etat in 1969 all political parties and institutions were dissolved and they were replaced by a revolutionary commanding council, which consequently abolished all hard-won reforms.

When Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim and her husband Shafi’, an influential trade unionist, refused cooperation with al-Numairi, it eventually led to disasterous consequence. In 1971 her husband was tortured and executed, while Fatima Ibrahim remained under house arrest for two years and a half. After her release she proceeded in her struggle against suppression until she got arrested again and nearly was sentenced to life imprisonment by a military emergency court – she eventually escaped following worldwide outrage and protests. In 1990 she went into exile to London, where she became engaged in human rights acitivities. In 1991 she was elected President of the International Democratic Women’s Union, and in 1993 she received a UN Award for Outstanding Achievements in the Field of human rights.

In 2005 Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim returned to Sudan, and she is presently a Member of Parliament representing the Sudanese Communist Party.

The struggle for women’s rights in Sudan is an integral part of the struggle for political independence, freedom and human rights. Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim’s work is setted against the background of these social and political transformation processes between tradition and modernity, tyranny and revolution. She bravely went her way through all obstacles, risked all and entured everything without giving up her rights. For this unyielding courage that is exemplary in the Arab world she will be awarded the Ibn Rushd Prize.

Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim will personally travel from Khartum to receive the award on the 8th December 2006 at 5 p.m. in the Goethe Institute, Neue Schönhauser Straße 20, in Berlin-Mitte. A reception with tea and bakhlava will conclude the celebrations and leave room for personal discussion.