Past winners

An overview of the past winners of te Human Rights Tulip. 

2020 | Lilit Martirosyan | Armenia

The 2020 Human Rights Tulip has been awarded to Lilit Martirosyan. Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok presented the prize on 10 December 2020, international Human Rights Day.

Lilit Martirosyan is Armenia’s first registered transgender woman. As founder and current president of the Right Side human rights defenders NGO, she works fearlessly for equal rights for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. ‘Lilit has never given up on the peaceful path towards change’, said Mr Blok, ‘even after receiving death threats.’ The Dutch government recognizes Lilit Martirosyan for her constant leadership in demanding attention and respect for transgender people and sex workers in Armenia. Her nomination has also drawn attention to the plight of transgender people and sex workers throughout the region.

With the prize money Right Side NGO will set up a community centre that serves as a home and safe space for the LGBTI community and sex workers in Armenia. They will receive legal and social-psychological support.

2018 | Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein | Jordanië

The 2018 Human Rights Tulip was awarded to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.

Foreign minister Stef Blok presented him with the prize on 3 September in The Hague.

‘Human rights lay the foundation for stability and security,’ said Mr Blok. ‘It is important that we highlight the work of those who strive to promote human rights across the world.’

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein received the prize for his work as High Commissioner for Human Rights at the UN from 2014 until 2018. In those four years he has spoken out loud and clear for the protection of human rights worldwide. ‘The Netherlands greatly values the way in which he has fulfilled his mandate as High Commissioner,’ Mr Blok said. ‘He addressed human rights violations wherever they occurred. This critical and independent attitude is what is needed in a world where human rights are in jeopardy in many places.’

On 1 September Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein was succeeded by former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet.

Next to the Human Rights Tulip for the High Commissioner, the Ministry also awarded several Human Rights Tulips to local human rights defenders around 10 December 2018, International Human Rights Day. These Tulips were awarded by a number of Embassies of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

2017 | Graciela Pérez Rodríguez | Mexico

The 2017 Human Rights Tulip was awarded to Mexican human rights defender Graciela Pérez Rodriguez. Foreign minister Halbe Zijlstra presented her with the prize on Friday 8 December in The Hague, two days ahead of Human Rights Day. 

Graciela Pérez Rodriguez defends the rights of family members of disappeared persons in Mexico. Through her work she attempts to break through the taboos surrounding this issue. The human rights defender is herself searching for her disappeared daughter, brother and three nephews. Graciela Pérez Rodriguez, a non-professional who has immersed herself in forensic science, is a founding member of the Forensic Citizen Science project. This national collective of disappeared persons’ family members in various Mexican states helped establish the Mexican National Citizen Registry of Disappeared Persons and a DNA database run by and for citizens, which facilitates the identification of victims’ remains at a late stage.

‘Despite the difficult circumstances in which she works, Graciela remains committed to searching for disappeared persons in Mexico,’ Mr Zijlstra said. ‘Human rights defenders like Graciela are indispensable in the fight for a better world. It takes pressure from the inside to achieve real change.’ Disappearances are a serious problem in Mexico. Between January and August 2017 over 2,400 people were reported missing. In mid-October the Mexican Congress passed a new law to combat disappearances, which provides for longer prison sentences and a committee tasked with finding disappeared persons. The Dutch government sees this law as an important step forward in dealing with this problem.

2016 | Nighat Dad | Pakistan

The 2016 Human Rights Tulip was awarded to the Pakistani internet activist Nighat Dad. Foreign minister Bert Koenders presented her with the prize on Saturday 10 December 2016, Human Rights Day, in The Hague.

‘Human rights defenders are modern-day heroes,’ said the minister. ‘Despite the many threats she has received, Nighat Dad continues to fight to improve adherence to human rights in Pakistan in a unique and innovative way. Ms Dad is a pioneer who is working to remove everyday obstacles to internet access, especially those that affect women.’

Freedom of expression is under pressure in Pakistan. Increasing restrictions are being placed on the digital freedoms of individuals and civil society organisations alike. Ms Dad is a staunch defender of digital rights and the importance of protecting women and girls and marginalised groups on social media. 

In 2012 Ms Dad founded the Digital Rights Foundation, which supports female internet users in the form of digital security training courses, public awareness campaigns and the newly created Cyber Harassment Helpline. Ms Dad’s approach enables her to reach women throughout Pakistan, including those in more remote areas of the country. 

2015 | IRA Mauritania | Mauritanië

The 2015 Human Rights Tulip was awarded on International Human Rights Day, Thursday 10 December, to IRA-Mauritania, an organisation from Mauritania that is working to abolish slavery. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bert Koenders, presented the €100,000 prize and the accompanying bronze tulip sculpture to Abidine Merzough, the European representative of IRA-Mauritania.

Working both in Mauritania and at international level, IRA-Mauritania (Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement in Mauritania) is drawing attention to the issue of slavery and supports victims in building a new life. ‘IRA-Mauritania stands up for people who are marginalised and excluded, and in this way it makes an important contribution to the battle against slavery,’ said Mr Koenders. ‘That is why I have decided to award the Human Rights Tulip to this organisation this year.’

Thousands of people in Mauritania are living in conditions which could be described as modern slavery. Many are born into and grow up as part of a household in which they receive no pay for their work. Often they are also mistreated. What’s more, they are prevented from owning land, attending school or participating in politics. The most common victims of such abuses are women and children.

In August of 2015 slavery was made a crime against humanity under Mauritanian law. Mr Koenders said that the Netherlands welcomes this positive development and pointed out how important it is for the Mauritanian authorities to enforce this law.

‘Fighting injustice is the essence of the work done by human rights defenders,’ continued Mr Koenders. ‘I have visited the beautiful country of Mauritania on several occasions in recent years. The battle against slavery there needs our support. It is terrible to witness how slavery endures, but I think it’s great that IRA-Mauritania is working to eliminate the practice.’

IRA-Mauritania received €100,000 to continue its work. 

2014 | Mideast Youth |

The Human Rights Tulip 2014 was awarded to Mideast Youth. Esra’a Al Shafei received the award on behalf of the organization. ‘The dramatic worldwide deterioration of compliance with human rights obligations calls for unconventional measures against these violations. This is something that Mideast Youth excels in’, said Koenders.

Mideast Youth builds online platforms to give a voice to people who strive for human rights. These platforms create an environment in which (young) people can discuss subjects that are taboo in parts of the Middle East, such as equal rights for LGBTI, equal rights for religious and ethnic minorities such as Baha’i and Kurds and the protection of labour migrants who face difficult living conditions in large parts of the Middle East. The websites are accessible and interactive, to make sure that the message is not just told, but also heard.

Esra’a Al Shafei (1986) is the founder and director of Mideast Youth. She is one of the most influential internet rights activists in the Arab world. Al Shafei fights for a world without censorship by using the internet as a platform for freedom of speech and information. She is the voice of a new generation that deploys social media, design and music to gain attention for controversial issues.

2013 | Aahung | Pakistan

'Aahung owes its success to the ability to give human rights a human face,’ foreign minister Frans Timmermans said on presenting the Human Rights Tulip to the organisation’s director, Ms Sheena Hadi. Aahung actively promotes awareness of sexual and reproductive health among young people and adults in Pakistan.

‘The Aahung method is to engage a wide range of stakeholders, like school teachers, medical staff, religious scholars and parents, to talk about difficult subjects,’ Mr Timmermans said. ‘Its efforts to promote human rights are not abstract. They involve the people we share our daily lives with and who are part of the local community. They teach men and women of all ages life skills to help them deal with issues like puberty, gender discrimination, HIV/AIDS, peer pressure and family planning.’

Awarding the Human Rights Tulip to Aahung is more than simply the end of a selection process, Mr Timmermans said. It is the start of a long relationship between Aahung and the Netherlands. The Human Rights Tulip was awarded in cooperation with the legal consultancy and research institute, The Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law. HiiL will work with Aahung to extend the reach of the latter’s successful approach.