Sunday, June 04, 2006

Who is Dalia Ziada?

Dalia Ziada, Egyptian liberal human rights activist.

I was born in Cairo, Egypt in January 2nd, 1982 and I still live there. I hold BA in English Literature from Ain Shams University. Right now, I am studying for MA Degree in International Relations from Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. I do believe in myself and in my unlimited ability to achieve my goals.

My interest in advocating civil freedoms and human rights in the Middle East and North Africa region started as a personal cause. Since I was 8 years-old, I wanted to change my family's stance towards women's rights in general and stop using violence against women in particular.

When I grew up, my personal interest in having more equal rights as a woman expanded to my country, Egypt. As an undergraduate, I co-launched a campaign with four of my class-mates to spread awareness about the horrible psychological and physical consequences of Female Genital Mutilation and try to convince parents not to practice FGM against their innocent helpless daughters.

After graduation, my interest in women's rights expanded to be an interest in human rights and civil freedoms in the whole Middle East and North Africa region. I joined Al-Ahram newspaper as a sub-training and then a professional reporter on foreign affairs. I worked their for two years before the tragic sudden death of my father in 2004. It took me a whole 18 months to accept his death and be able to go back to normal life and continue pursuing my dreams.

By the end of 2005, I joined the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information as a translator and researcher. My top notch under working with ANHRI was co-creating a bi-lingual report on freedom to use the internet in the Middle East and North Africa region, titled "Implacable Adversaries: Arab Governments and the Internet."

By the end of 2006, my friend blogger Kareem Amer was taken to jail for allegedly "defaming the Egyptian president and disdaining Islam on his blog!" I co-launched an international campaign to defend his right to freedom of expression, but unfortunately the court sentenced him to 4 years. He is still in jail up till this moment.

By the beginning of 2007, Tharwa Foundation offered me a part-time position as their local coordinator in Egypt. I worked with them till the end of 2007. My top notch under working with Tharwa Foundation was authoring an analysis report titled "Egypt, Whereto?!" on the future of political and civil rights movements in Egypt.

By July 2007, I quit ANHRI to found the Cairo office of the American Islamic Congress and manage AIC activities in the MENA region. My top notches under working with AIC include: starting the first human rights film festival in the history of the Middle East, translating the Montgomery Story comic book into Arabic and distributing all over the MENA region, launching 5F campaign to promote religious tolerance in Egypt, launching the "AB Human Rights Campaign" for Egyptian primary school children, working on a long-term women's rights project aiming at adopting a new narrative for women in the Muslim World, and advising local (Egyptian), regional (MENA), and American policymakers (i.e. Senators, Congressmen, White House Advisors, State Department officials, etc.) on how to best address human rights, women rights, and freedom of expression in the Middle East. In June 2009, I was invited to the historical speech of President Obama to the Muslim world from Cairo. After the speech, I met privately with White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarret.

I gave different lectures and presentations on civil rights, human rights, women's rights, Muslim-American relations, and the power of nonviolent action in different places all over the world; US, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, etc.

In addition, I am still running my small business at Softcopy Translation Center. Also, I facilitate work for international NGOs (e.g., and others) in Egypt and the Middle East.

Accordingly, I had several appearances on prominent international media outlets. My favorite are: CNN commenting on President Obama's Cairo speech in June 2009 as I was invited to attend the speech and afterwards I met privately with White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarret; Time Magazine which labeled me as Muslim Rights Champion; Cultural Connect magazine which profiled me as a successful young business woman when I was 24 years-old; Rosalyusif interview which profiled me as one of Egypt's success stories; BBC Radio interview which profiled me as one of the women on the forefront in Egypt, and the French Le Monde interview which portrayed me as a leading political and woman rights activist.

One more important final thing; I am a poet. My first poetry book was published in January 2010 and distributed in Egypt. Early in 2006, I wrote a poem titled "Lam Alef" about the power of the word "No!" in Arabic and translated into English. It was political and critical to the submissive nature of Egyptian public against their suppressors. Mideast Youth website published it for me. Few weeks later, I was surprised when an American reader bought it to hang on the wall in her house. By the end of 2006, I wrote a poem defending freedom of expression titled "Prisoner" in Arabic and translated into English. By the beginning of the year 2007, I was shocked when I learnt that an Egyptian judge filed a claim in the court against me. He was offended by my poem and demanded from the court to block my own blog, only because of this poem. Thank God! By the end of 2007, the court rejected his claim and my blog is still here.

P.s. This post was last updated on Sunday July 25th, 2010.