Sudanese women’s activist Amira Osman Hameed has won the Front Line Defenders Award for human rights defenders at risk, the organization announced on Friday.
The activist and engineer, now in her forties, has been advocating for Sudanese women for two decades, and was detained this year in a crackdown following the country’s latest coup.
She was among the defenders of Afghanistan, Belarus, Zimbabwe and Mexico who also received the 2022 Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk.
The Dublin-based Front Line Defenders said in an announcement of their awards, “Usman” has never shied away from his mission, “relentlessly (advocating) for democracy, human rights and women’s rights.”
First accused of wearing trousers in 2002, she gained international support in 2013 when she was detained and threatened with flogging for refusing to wear a headscarf.
Both charges fell under morality laws during the regime of long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir, who took power in an Islamist-backed coup. Osman told AFP at the time that the ethics laws “turned Sudanese women from victims to criminals” and targeted “the dignity of the Sudanese people”.
In 2009 she founded the “No to Women Operation”, an initiative to advocate against the much-awaited public order law. It was finally repealed in 2019 following Bashir’s ouster following a massive rebellion.
Women were at the forefront of the protests that toppled Bashir, and hopes were high for a more liberal Sudan as sanctions were lifted that affected her work and public life.
But after a delicate transition to civilian rule following the October coup led by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, many feared for the freedoms he had achieved since his expulsion.
There has been a crackdown on pro-civilian democracy figures, with at least 96 people killed and hundreds detained in the protests.
In late January 2022, Osman’s team told AFP that “30 masked armed men” broke into his home in Khartoum at midnight, “taking him to an undisclosed location.”
The UN mission in Sudan called for her release, tweeting that “Amira’s arrest and pattern of violence against women’s rights activists pose a serious risk of undermining her political participation in Sudan.”
He was released in early February and was seen by an AFP correspondent taking part in a demonstration kneeling on crutches with a back injury.
The award has honored human rights defenders annually since 2005.