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2008 Women's Rights Prize

Yanar Mohammed

Yanar Mohammed was born in Baghdad in 1960. She graduated from Baghdad University in 1984 and received a Master’s degree in Architecture in 1993. Although her work on behalf of Iraqi women has placed her own life in danger, Yanar Mohammed continues to believe that the world that she and all Iraqi women are entitled to is a world worth fighting for. She is the founder of Defense of Iraqi Women’s Rights (DIWR), which advocates full equality for Iraqi women through active involvement in political debate. In 2003, she co-founded Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) to help achieve full equality for women in post-war Iraq. The publisher of Al Mousawat, a newspaper calling for full equality for women, Mohammed has opened two women’s shelters (in Baghdad and Kirkuk) and several safe houses to protect women threatened by honor killing and domestic abuse. The shelters have protected hundreds of women who, under Islamic law, face threats to their lives.

Mohammed currently lives in both Iraq and Canada. In addition to being well known in Iraq as an advocate for that country’s secular future, she has become a recognized spokesperson for women’s rights all over the world. She recently spoke at the World Social Forum in Caracas, Venezuela, and serves as a mentor and role model for women in the Middle East and elsewhere who seek the courage and insight to protest and take action, in the most effective way, against the abuse and oppression of women and girls.

Since August 2005, Mohammed has offered courses to instruct women activists in how to confront local tradition, tribalism, and religious intolerance. She regularly advocates on Iraqi radio and television for women’s equality in a secular state. She dreams of giving a voice to Iraqi women through their own television channel, embodying a new wave of progressive feminism that can spread throughout the Middle East.