Since December 2015, Nsreen Amer has worked as an American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) Human Rights Fellow and conducts various activities to promote, raise awareness of and advocate for human rights in Libya. Amer has also helped establish and currently chairs the Women Human Rights Defenders Network, which works to obtain equal rights for Libyan women, in all political, economic and social settings. We asked Amer a few questions relating to her work in Libya and have translated her responses from Arabic.
Please briefly describe how your work with ABA ROLI has impacted your career.
Amer: “ABA ROLI’s technical support helped me to improve my knowledge in various substantive areas of human rights, including women’s rights, children’s rights, rights of migrants, etc. Perhaps more importantly, ABA ROLI’s organized trainings and workshops taught me and several other Libyan human rights legal professionals how to operate in times of conflict and instability, how to design and implement advocacy initiatives, how to reach out (to) the communities and raise awareness by (using) social media. This knowledge helped me to continue defending human rights in a very volatile and even dangerous environment.”
How has your work with ABA ROLI impacted those within the communities where you work and where you have worked?
Amer: “With ABA ROLI’s support, we were able to train several lawyers and educate teachers who were engaged in an awareness raising campaign on the rights of children. About 2,000 children received information about human rights, equality and (the) importance of social activism through this campaign. I also was able to publish (an) online journal on several human rights concerns and issues, including (an) increase of early marriages in Libya, (the) situation of female detainees and asylum seekers, women’s political participation, etc. The activities we implement with ABA ROLI’s support leave (a) positive (impact) on the communities in Libya. ”
What made you become interested in human rights, specifically involving women and children?
Amer: “As a law student and then a lawyer, I was always interested and fascinated by human rights. I believe that all human beings are equal and shall enjoy their rights. Disregard of human rights was a primary reason of the revolution in Libya and people made great sacrifices for freedom, dignity and equality. Today, when protection and respect for human rights remains a challenge, I feel it is more important than ever to continue my work and express gratitude to those who lost their lives in the fight of better Libya.”
Who is the audience for the online journal, “Women’s Rights Defender’s Monthly Rights Journal” and what do you hope to accomplish with it?
Amer: “In the current situation, when human rights advocates face several security risks and threats, it is difficult to travel and physically reach out to communities. To address this challenge, (my colleagues and I) decided to publish an online journal and promote it on social media. This way, we are able to reach the largest possible number of women and men who are interested in women’s rights; raise awareness about human rights, women’s rights and fight against prejudices about the status of women in a society; document violations and identify those responsible; remind the government institutions about their responsibilities to respect and ensure respect of human rights; enhance communication between civil society and grassroots; and broaden the base of activists and supporters of a cause. We are sure that in order to truly improve human rights, including status of women in Libya, it is critical to obtain cooperation across various sectors and groups of Libyan society, the journal helps us spread the right message and attract supporters for human rights.”
Please describe your work with ABA ROLI in the assessment of the status of women in Libya. What is that assessment being used for specifically?
Amer: “ABA ROLI conducted an assessment of both de jure and de facto status of women in Libya. To my knowledge, this is the first assessment of (its) kind, which hopefully will be used by policymakers, human rights advocates, civil society organizations, as well as (the) international community to provide targeted assistance and implement the correct policies… I participated in the assessment as an interviewer, which required me to travel to different parts of Libya, meet women of various backgrounds, listen to them and better understand the reality they live in, the challenges they face to as well as the opportunities they see for themselves and for their children.”
What challenges still face human rights advocates in Libya?
Amer: “Human rights advocates in Libya face several challenges. Most important(ly), lack of security, widespread violence and weak institutions. (The) Libyan public is reluctant and often suspicious about human rights; this skepticism is often reinforced by strict interpretation of religion by some radical groups.”
To learn more about our work in Libya, please contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].