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New On The Freedom Collection: Abdel Basset Ben Hassen

Article by Christopher Walsh February 1, 2013 //   3 minute read

Watch the Freedom Collection’s new interview with Tunisia’s Abdel Basset Ben Hassen, a prominent human rights advocate in the Middle East.  Ben Hassen, who served on Tunisia’s High Committee for the Realization of the Objectives of the Revolution, Political Reform and Democratic Transition, has played an active role in his own country’s democratic transition. Ben Hassen has dedicated much of his adult life to the promotion of human rights in the Arab world. After graduating from college, he joined the Arab Institute for Human Rights (AIHR) where he worked to train thousands of freedom activists across the region on developing strategies for promoting their causes.  Later, he joined the Ford Foundation in Egypt and worked directly with farmers, fisherman, and laborers in depressed areas to encourage greater human rights education.  Authoritarian leaders in the Middle East and Africa posed numerous roadblocks to such work.  As a result, many were afraid to join or cooperate with civil society organizations.  Ben Hassen, however, viewed it as defiance against authoritarianism, “I think that part of our resistance was to develop a human rights culture and human rights education.  And make it part of our attempt to introduce human rights culture in society and to reinforce our presence in these societies.” Ben Hassen, now the President of AIHR, recognizes the challenges posed by the aftermath of the Arab Spring.  Regardless, he remains an optimist that the Arab world will cultivate its own democratic tradition saying, “We demonstrated that human rights culture, human rights concepts, and democratic concepts are not strange to Arab societies.”  He also stresses the need for patience as such processes take time, “We have many, many opportunities and also much cultural and civic potential…we can use this civic potential to establish a vibrant and sustainable democracy not only for Tunisia, but for all Arab countries.  It will not be easy at all.  We'll go through many, many challenges, many difficulties.” Watch Abdel Basset Ben Hassen’s interview here. This post was written by Christopher Walsh, Program Coordinator of the Freedom Collection.