Freshta Karimi, an Afghan lawyer and rights activist whose work has earned her repeated threats from the Taliban, was named the winner of a top human rights prize in Paris on Tuesday.
Freshta Karimi, 38, has been awarded the Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize, a prize presented by jurists to their peers.
Karimi is the founder and director of Da Qanoon Ghushtonky (DQG – “Seeker of Law” in Pashto), one of the largest legal aid service organizations in Afghanistan. Her organization works to uphold the rights of women and children in Afghanistan and she has regularly represented it abroad in recent years.
Since the Taliban seized power last month, however, she has kept a lower profile, lawyer Bertrand Favreau, the founder of the prize and chairman of its jury, told AFP.
"For at least five years, she has received threats from the Taliban in all the cities where she has tried to open an office to inform women of their rights," he said.
The threats had not stopped her from continuing her outreach work, however, traveling to even the most remote villages, he added. "Today she is one of the most threatened lawyers in the world."
The Ludovic Trarieux Award is an annual prize that recognizes lawyers of any nationality who have sought to defend human rights, often at great risk to themselves.
The award was named after Trarieux, who founded France's Human Rights League (LDH) in 1898.
Its first laureate was anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, who was awarded the prize in 1985. He remained in prison for another five years before emerging to become South Africa's first black president.
In 2020, the prize was awarded to two Turkish lawyers, sisters Barkin and Ebru Timtik.
Ebru had died the month before the prize announcement after a 238-day hunger strike to protest her imprisonment on terror-related accusations. Barkin is serving a lengthy sentence on similar charges.
Champion of women and children's rights
Karimi was born in Kabul in 1983. She studied law there and received her legal degree from Payam-e-Noor University in Kabul.
Since 2002, she has dedicated her career to improving access to justice and promoting women's and children’s rights. She is also a member of several groups advocating policy changes and has traveled extensively internationally representing her organization and promoting various women’s rights issues and highlighting the concerns of Afghan women.
As an activist of this new generation of Afghan women, Karimi has already affected change within her own organization and is committed to building a more secure and safe country for vulnerable groups.
In addition to her commitment to combating violence against women in Afghanistan, through DQG, Karimi has worked to increase communities’ legal public awareness at the district and provincial levels, utilizing the publication of a variety of popular legal awareness materials.
DQG currently provides legal aid services for women, children and men in criminal and family cases in 16 provinces across Afghanistan. From DQG’s establishment in 2006 through September 2014, DQG lawyers have handled more than 21,000 criminal and family cases, of which 70% of clients have been released or in civil cases, resolved in the favor of clients.
DQG has worked consistently to build the capacity of defense lawyers, law and Sharia Law students, paralegals, judges, prosecutors and police through various training programs.