Award Recipient Bios
Amna Guellali is a Tunisian researcher and human rights advocate. She is currently a Senior Tunisia and Algeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, where she investigates human rights abuses in both countries. Before joining Human Rights Watch, Guellali worked as analyst at the office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, and as Senior Researcher at the department of international law at the Asser Institute. She has also served as legal officer at the regional delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Tunis. Guellali holds a PhD from the European University Institute in Florence. She is a native speaker of Arabic and also fluent in French, English, and Italian.
Aya Hijazi is an Egyptian-American social justice advocate. Following the 2011 Tahrir uprising, Hijazi and her husband Mohamed Hassanein started a nongovernmental organization in Cairo, The Belady Foundation, to address the plight of street children in Egypt and advocate for child rights. In May 2014, the Egyptian police raided the foundation and detained Hijazi, Hassanein, and several colleagues. They were charged with outrageous crimes in a process lacking evidence and due process. In April 2017, after three years in prison, the defendants were acquitted of all charges. Upon their release, Hijazi and Hassanein relocated to the United States, where they are working to establish the Belady Foundation.
Hisham Matar is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who writes powerfully about the human effects of dictatorship, repression, and injustice. As a child, Matar and his family relocated from Libya to Cairo in 1979 due to his father's political persecution under the Gaddafi regime. In 1990, while Matar was studying in London, his father was kidnapped in Cairo and disappeared by Gaddafi's agents. Matar's most recent book, the 2016 memoir The Return, recounts his journey to Libya from exile after Gaddafi's toppling to try to learn the fate of his father. The Return received the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for autobiography, the PEN/Jean Stein Award, numerous other prizes, and was named one of the New York Times' top 10 books of the year. Matar's work has been translated into thirty languages. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Representative Don Beyer is a United States Congressman from the 8th district of Virginia. Previously he served as Lieutenant Governor of Virginia from 1990 to 1998 and as the U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Lichtenstein from 2009 to 2013. As the Representative of Aya Hijazi's district, Congressman Beyer was very involved in her case, calling on the U.S. administration to press for her release; drawing public attention to the plight of Hijazi, Hassanein, and their colleagues; and speaking on behalf of human rights in Egypt.