Ibn Rushd Award 2011 goes to
Tunisian Woman Journalist
The Ibn Rushd Fund for Freedom of Thought is delighted to declare the journalist Sihem Bensedrine the winner of the 13th Ibn Rushd Award. Since 1998, the Ibn Rushd Fund has honored people or organizations that have rendered outstanding services to Freedom of Thought in the Arabic World. The award will be presented on November 25, 2011 in the Museum for Islamic Art, Berlin Germany.
While the revolutions and continuing turmoil in many Arab nations surprised observers both inside and outside the countries, there have in fact been tireless and courageous individuals who have worked to bring about this change. Sihem Bensedrine is one of these brave individuals. Now 61, Ms. Bensedrine is a journalist and a human rights activist who began advocating freedom of speech and democracy in her home country of Tunisia while still studying philosophy in Paris. During her career as a journalist, she worked for numerous newspapers, some of which were subsequently closed by the government for being too critical of the regime. She was co-founder of the magazine ‘Kalima’ (the word). The Tunisian state would not issue the paper a license, so it was published as an online journal. Despite being banned and having the site blocked by the government, the internet site ‘http://www.kalima-tunisie.info’ had some 40,000 readers per month, who had learned to circumvent the blockades in such a way that it was impossible for the authorities to identify them. “The internet”, says Sihem Bensedrine, “is the virtual space that is most likely to provide a secure place for resistance. The relatively free communication in the World Wide Web has proven to be a key to the democratization of society.” A radio station of the same name, ‘Radio Kalima’, went into service shortly after the paper began publishing and was also denied a license by the government.
Her persistence and commitment was not without personal consequence and danger. Ms. Bensedrine was the target of smear campaigns in the state’s media and was attacked and injured by ‘unknown persons’ in the street several times, as well as being arrested and tortured by the Tunisian authorities. Those attempts at intimidation, however, were not successful: “They have confiscated my freedom, so I have the obligation to fight,” says Bensedrine, “for a woman it is particularly necessary to revolt against any kind of oppression.” With the support of the Hamburg Foundation for Politically Persecuted People and a scholarship from the Writers in Exile Program of the German P.E.N., she came for extended visits to Germany and Austria. With increasing threats to her life, she was forced into exile from Tunisia in 2009. Early in 2011, however, she returned to help support the creation of a democratic state.
The Ibn Rushd Prize 2011 went to “a woman journalist who actively and courageously fosters freedom of thought in the Arab World.” The winner was elected by a jury appointed by the Ibn Rushd Fund. The members of this jury are distinguished by their knowledge in the field of ‘Journalism in the Arab World’, and their own publications on the subject, and have worked for the Fund in an honorary capacity.
The jury members were: Toujan Al-Faisal (human rights activist, TV-journalist und first female member of the parliament, Jordan), Subhi Hadidi (Critic, editor and translator, Syria/France), Hamdy Kandil (TV-presenter, journalist and political activist, Egypt), Nadia Lamhaidi (Professor of journalism, advisor for international organizations and author, Morocco) and Laila Al-Shaikhli (TV-journalist, Qatar).
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 sub-theme varies from year to year, and has so far covered literature and film, women’s rights, the reform of Islam, Arab Enlightenment, economics and Internet platform. To determine the main theme, each January the Ibn Rushd Fund calls upon its members to choose the award category for the year from a list of topics. Anyone interested can 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.
Ibn Rushd Fund for Freedom of Thought
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