Human Rights Watch's Alison Des Forges Award celebrates the valor of individuals who put their lives on the line to protect the dignity and rights of others. Human Rights Watch collaborates with these courageous activists to create a world in which people live free of violence, discrimination, and oppression.
Yonous Muhammadi is a leading defender of refugee rights in Greece, where he secured asylum after fleeing Taliban abuses in his home country of Afghanistan. Muhammadi has long been targeted for his work, including being jailed by the Taliban in Afghanistan for his human rights research and advocacy, and brutally beaten in Athens by unidentified assailants as he taught Greek to migrant children.
As president of the Greek Forum of Refugees (GFR), Muhammadi ensures that the needs and rights of recently arrived asylum seekers, migrants, and refugees are at the heart of high-level debates in Greece and elsewhere in Europe. He was among the first to identify the alarming extent of xenophobic violence in Greece and to press for accountability for perpetrators of such acts. He is also committed to defending women’s rights and serves as an ambassador for White Ribbon, one of the world’s largest male-led campaigns to end violence against women.
Muhammadi conducts outreach and advocacy to inform refugees of their rights and obligations in Greece, ensure access to medical services, and remedy inadequate reception conditions, hurdles to integration, and appalling detention conditions. GFR successfully lobbied the Greek Ministry of Education in 2010 to allow undocumented children to attend school, and last year, pushed the Greek government to create a shelter for hundreds of Afghan families. Muhammadi’s dedication has become increasingly important as more than 1 million asylum seekers and migrants, mainly from Syria and Afghanistan, have arrived in Greece since 2015.
Human Rights Watch honors Yonous Muhammadi for his unwavering courage and commitment to protecting the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants in Greece and throughout Europe.