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Amira Yahyaoui

Honoree, 2017

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In Tunisia, 27-year-old blogger Amira Yahyaoui has been a tireless advocate for freedom of expression for over a decade. She comes from a family of human rights activists; when she was 16, her father, a judge, was forced from his job for speaking out against then-President Ben Ali.

While still a teenager, Amira was tailed by secret police and beaten for her activism; ultimately, she sought refuge in Paris and was banned from her homeland for four years. Following her country’ s revolution, Amira became an independent youth candidate in Tunisia’ s first free election.

“Before, I was an activist against,” she says. “How can I now build? We have to engage ourselves as youth, and then engage the work.”

Amira created an NGO, Al Bawsala, which is monitoring the constitutional assembly and advocating for human rights. She also launched the Tunisian Parliament Monitor to protect the free expression of the Tunisian people. As she says, “We have this huge responsibility to show to the world, and to the Arab world, that we can succeed. Even if we are focusing in Tunisia, we are doing it for the entire region.”