The Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR) welcomes Defenders from around the world to their Protective Fellowship Scheme. As CAHR enters its tenth year, we highlight Defender Doaa Mostafa Ahmed Hassan, and hear how she came to be in York.
My name is Doaa Mostafa Ahmed Hassan. I am from Egypt, and was born in 1984. From an early age I was influenced by my illiterate mother, who had no opportunities for education. She stressed to me the importance of education for all citizens and how this could help the disadvantaged in Egypt. This inspired me to graduate from the Faculty of Law at University of Zagazig in Egypt.
My first job was as a contract lawyer, but I also worked voluntarily on criminal cases and, on a few occasions, would act as a defence lawyer for protesters. When the 2011 Revolution came, a friend of mine was killed and many people were arrested or disappeared. As a result, I volunteered for three months with the highly-respected Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, which specialises in human rights cases through legal research, campaigning and litigation.
Between 2012 and 2013 I worked for the Al-Agl Al-Aray Centre for Rights and Freedoms. Then in 2013 I joined the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms as a volunteer in their Criminal Justice Program. In 2014 I was hired by the organisation to be their Programme Director in Criminal Justice. I manage the programme at three offices: the Head Office in Cairo, one in Alexandria and one in Monsora. We are currently working on four programmes: disappearances, unfair trials, torture and extrajudicial killings. These crimes are not recognised by the government and, because of this, they are dangerous areas to work on. I am also a member of the Front of Defence for Egyptian Protesters, a group comprising activists and human rights lawyers working to protect protesters from human rights violations.
When the 2011 Revolution came, a friend of mine was killed and many people were arrested or disappeared.
I have provided legal support to many activists, minors and journalists arrested during anti-government protests, either because of their participation or because they were not protesting but innocently carrying out their work. I have won a number of court cases, particularly in the defence of the right to freedom of assembly. On 25 February 2014, for example, on the third anniversary of the 2011 revolution, I provided legal support to protesters arrested in six separate cases and was able to achieve verdicts of innocence for five of them.
In recent years I have been involved in trial monitoring, including military trials and those involving alleged terrorists. As part of my work on enforced disappearances and detention I have submitted a number of complaints to the Public Prosecutor in connection with such cases.
I am currently the only female lawyer to be working on enforced disappearances in Egypt, one of the most important human rights violations taking place in Egypt today. I am also the only female lawyer that goes into the prosecution offices of the National Security Agency. In 2012 I won the Social Party Award for Best Human Rights Defenders, and in 2015 I won the Al-Karama Award for Best Human Rights Defenders.
What the Human Rights Fellowship meant to me….
The period that preceded the Fellowship was very difficult for those who were defending human rights in Egypt, including myself. I had to work on an increased number of dreadful cases, especially relating to enforced disappearances and torture. I went through a difficult time, particularly because my organisation was under attack from the authorities. The Fellowship therefore came at a very opportune moment for me, enabling me to recharge in order to keep fighting for my causes.
Part of the programme at York is about learning to interact with people from different backgrounds. This has been very interesting for me because I have not been through anything similar before. The Fellowship helped me to build strong friendships with many people, learning much from them, and also discovering more about myself. I am confident that I can transfer to my colleagues back in Egypt my successful experience during the Fellowship, and even build on it by rethinking our plans and strategies for defending human rights in Egypt.
Doaa Mostafa Ahmed Hassan
Alumni and friends generously fund 10 Protective Fellowship Scheme places each year at the Centre for Applied Human Rights. Funding to support the CAHR is generously provided by the Sigrid Rausing Trust, Open Society Foundations, the Alan and Babette Sainsbury Charitable Fund, the J A Clark Charitable Trust, the Evan Cornish Foundation, YuFund and the University of York.
Hear more from our Human Rights Defenders