Pakistani internet activist to receive 2016 Human Rights Tulip

This Saturday the Pakistani internet activist Nighat Dad will be presented with the Human Rights Tulip for 2016 by development minister Lilianne Ploumen. The Human Rights Tulip is an award given annually by the Dutch government to a person or organisation that has made an innovative contribution to improving and protecting human rights.

Nighat Dad’s Digital Rights Foundation works in Pakistan to defend the digital rights of marginalised groups and to protect their position on social media, with a special emphasis on young women. ‘Thanks to Nighat, Pakistani women today are more worldly-wise than they were,’ says Ms Ploumen. ‘She has helped thousands of girls discover the power of the internet. This gives them more opportunities at school and on the labour market. Now they are looking beyond their own family and village. At the same time Nighat is alerting them to the dangers of life online and organising training courses to help them deal with online harassment. It’s no accident that Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai was her pupil.’ The Human Rights Tulip comes with a prize of €100,000 to be used to expand the winner’s human rights work.

By presenting the Human Rights Tulip to 35-year-old Nighat Dad, the Netherlands seeks to promote freedom online, especially for women. ‘Nighat’s work is in keeping with our human rights policy,’ says the minister. ‘She is fighting for freedom of expression, including internet freedom, and advancing equal rights for women. But she is paying a high price for her efforts, and has to contend with all sorts of sexist prejudices. This award should be a step forward for human rights for everyone, in cyberspace as well as elsewhere.’ Previous winners have included human rights activists from Iran, China and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In the week preceding the award ceremony Ms Dad is visiting several Dutch cities as part of The Hague Defenders Days organised by human rights organisation Justice and Peace, speaking at universities and NGOs about digital rights. She is also taking The Hague Training Course for Human Rights Defenders on Security.