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Ibn Rushd Award 2012 goes to Syrian Lawyer Razan Zaitouneh

The Ibn Rushd Fund for Freedom of Thought is delighted to declare the Syrian lawyer and human rights activist, Razan Zaitouneh, the winner of the Ibn Rushd Award for Freedom of Thought. The award will be presented on November 30, 2012 in the Museum for Islamic Art, Pergamon Museum, Germany, which is again cooperating this year with the Ibn Rushd Fund. The laudatory speech will be held by the renowned expert on the Middle East Prof. Udo Steinbach.

The Ibn Rushd Fund has been recognising people who have sought to stimulate change with their thoughts since 1998, and who, all too often, have had to personally suffer the consequences in the form of imprisonment and torture. People who have broken new ground for so many others and who are now also fighting for freedom. This year, the Ibn Rushd Award called explicitly for ‘a young activist of the Arab Spring, who fights peacefully for a democratic state.’

The 35-year-old lawyer and human rights activist, Razan Zaitouneh, committed herself to the struggle for the rights of political prisoners in 2001 and was a co-founder of a society for human rights in Syria.  She has been reporting on the violation of human rights since 2005 on her internet platform SHRIL (Syrian Human Rights Information Link, She has also published numerous articles in all kinds of different media. With the outbreak of the revolution she was forced to go into hiding as a result of her activities. State forces stormed her home in Damascus, personal documents were taken, and both her husband and his brother put in solitary confinement for three months.

Syrians have been suffering under totalitarian rule, the negation of freedom and the smothering of even the smallest attempts to build a civil society for decades now. But for 18 months now young Syrian women and men have been publicly calling for reform.

Razan Zaitouneh received the Anna Politkovskaya Prize and the European parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Her commitment to human rights and her non-violent resistance not only makes her representative of the young generation that is prepared to risk personal freedom, security and even life for change within society; she is also representative of the women in the Arab revolutions, who – especially in Syria – are often involved in the fight in the front line against the regime, yet wrongly ignored by the majority of the Western media. 

Razan Zaitouneh was chosen by an independent jury from among a great number of nominees from numerous Arab countries. The Jury 2012 consisted of Taoufik Ben Brik, a freelance journalist and author from Tunisia. He is regarded the best known critic of the former Tunisian president Ben Ali. Since January 2011 he is head of the satirical weekly journal “Contre le pouvoir” (Dhir Essolta); Aref Hijjawi, author, journalist, radio- and TV-editor in Palestine. He was program director for BBC in London and for Al-Jazeera TV Channel, and director of the Media-Institute of the Bir Zeit University; Gisele Khoury, journalist from Lebanon. She was anchor at Lebanese and Arabic political talk shows and for the news channel al-Arabiya. 2005 she founded the “Samir Kassir Foundation”, which she is still presiding; Miral al-Tahawy, language- and literature-scientist from Egypt. She was guest lecturer at Cairo University and at different US-American Universities. She presently is an assistant professor at Arizona State University; and Samar Yazbek, journalist and author of many novels, short stories and screen-plays. She lives in Syria and France and is considered to be one of the most important advocate for human and women’s rights in Syria.

The Ibn Rushd Fund was founded in Germany and has members from and in numerous Arab and Western countries. Named after the philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averroes, 1126-1198), it seeks to promote freedom of thought and democratic forces in the Arab World by bestowing the Ibn Rushd Award once a year. This is a citizens’ award which is exclusively financed by membership fees and donations. The focus varies from year to year, and has so far covered literature and film, women’s rights, the reform of Islam, Arab Enlightenment, economics, blogger/internet platform, and journalism. To determine the focus, each year in January the Ibn Rushd Fund calls upon its members to choose the award category from a list of topics. Any interested member of the public may then nominate candidates, and an independent jury well versed in the subject is appointed by the Ibn Rushd Fund to select the winner from among the nominees.

For more information, see: Ibn Rushd Preis 2012

Ibn Rushd Fund for Freedom of Thought

Martin-Opitz-Str. 20

13357 Berlin


Tel. +49 (0) 30 32664-721

Fax +49 (0) 30 32664-722



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