Anne Klein Women's Award 2023 to Joumana Seif

Press Release

Anne Klein Women's Award 2023 to Joumana Seif, lawyer and co-founder of the Syrian Women's Network from Damascus, Syria

Berlin, December 7, 2022

The Anne Klein Women's Award 2023 goes to the Syrian lawyer and women's and human rights activist Joumana Seif, who has spent the past decade in forced exile in Berlin. Dr. Imme Scholz, chairperson of the jury and member of the board of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, explains the decision in favor of Joumana Seif: "It is thanks to committed lawyers like her that sexualized violence can be classified as a systematically used weapon of war and that it can be legally prosecuted and sentenced in international proceedings as a crime against humanity.”

Born in Damascus in 1970, Joumana Seif graduated from the Beirut Arab University with a degree in law. She was active as a human rights activist in the Syrian democracy movement. After receiving the Human Rights Award of the city of Weimar on behalf of her father in 2003, she experienced increasingly severe repression. In 2012, a year after the start of the uprisings against the Assad regime, Joumana Seif left Syria after death threats against her imprisoned father and her children. She fled to Berlin with her family in 2013.

Seif co-founded the Syrian Women's Network (2013), which advocates for gender justice and the inclusion of women in the political decision-making of a Syria of tomorrow. She also co-founded the Syrian Feminist Lobby (2014), which advocates for equal political rights for men and women in Syria, as well as the Syrian Women's Political Movement (2017), which aims to ensure that women represent at least 30 percent of those actively involved in political decision-making.

In May 2017, she joined European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) as a Research Fellow in the Program Area on International Crimes and Legal Accountability. Since March 2022, she has been ECCHR's Legal Advisor on the focus areas of Syria and sexual and gender-based violence. For example, Joumana Seif worked on the Al-Khatib trial at the Koblenz Higher Regional Court and closely accompanied the torture survivors involved. Her report "Words against Silence" analyzes the causes and effects of political imprisonment and torture from the perspective of women who, after their release, experience social stigmatization and discrimination in addition to trauma and feelings of guilt. The significance of Joumana Seif's work extends far beyond the Syrian context: here, international law is being further developed.

The Anne Klein Women's Prize is endowed with €10,000. The prize will be presented at a ceremony in Berlin on the evening of March 03, 2023.

The jury's statement, a portrait and a photo of the award winner can be downloaded free of charge here:


Ulrike Cichon

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