Widad Akrawi addressing the UN, 2010
Kurdistan region, Iraq
|Education||Masters degree in genetics and inherited disease and PhD in global health and cancer epidemiology|
|Known for||Bridging gap between cultures, human rights- and peace advocate, author, Arms Trade Treaty, UN Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, UN Resolution 2117|
Widad Akrawi (born 1969), is a Danish human rights defender and peace advocate of Kurdish ancestry and the first Scandinavian citizen-ever Pfeffer Peace Prize recipient. She is an international health expert, author, lecturer, senior lobbyist, and the President of Defend International.
Akrawi holds a Masters degree in genetics and a PhD in international health and epidemiology. Violations of human rights that occurred during the Iraqi government offensive against the Kurds in 1974, as well as during the Al-Anfal Campaign are thought to have shaped her life. Focusing on the end goals and holding on to her principles guided her to overcome the hardships she endured. She became the first young woman born in the Middle East region to have engaged in advocacy relating to illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, gender-based violence, chemical and biological disarmament, conventional disarmament and international security. She has been awarded the 2014 International Pfeffer Peace Award and the 2013 ‘Special Prize’ for bridging the gap between civilisations and making valuable contributions to humanity through the creation of a culture of coexistence. In 2013, she was listed among the world's "top 10 people who might win a Nobel Peace Prize" in the future.
Akrawi was born into a secular family in Akre, Kurdistan region, Iraq, in 1969. In 1974 Akrawi and her family fled to Mosul to avoid the Iraqi government offensive against the Kurds. In 1975, her family returned to Akre, and she started the school in September of that year. In her early and her teenage years, she resisted every effort made by members of the Baath Party to induce her to gain her trust and become a member, which caused her to be blacklisted for a period of time.
In 1986, when Akrawi was 16 years old, she moved to Erbil where she studied civil engineering with a focus on designing roads and bridges at the Salahaddin University. In 1988 she was secretly involved in documenting torture and other violations of human rights throughout Iraq. The following year, she became politically involved in various struggles for human rights, peace, social justice, democratic governance and ethnic reconciliation. Her advocacy of anti-authoritarianism and her criticism of the use of excessive force against civilians were not without risk and threat to her life and the lives of her family members. Her involvement in these issues became more intense after the Al-Anfal Campaign, also known as the Kurdish Genocide. Despite difficult times, she managed to complete her B.Sc. in 1990.
After the first Gulf War, when the Iraqi regime regained power over Kurdistan region through a bloody offensive in spring 1991, she was forced to leave her country. Because of her peace activism and political affiliations, she sought political asylum in Denmark and made her residence in Copenhagen.
In Denmark, Akrawi graduated from Language School in Nykøbing Falster in 1992 and enrolled at Naestved High School, where she continued studying Danish language and literature. The following year, she entered Roskilde Language School, where she passed "Danish Test 2" with a respectable high score. In 1999, she graduated from the Technical University of Denmark, where she earned a master’s degree in genetics and genomics. Soon after, she worked as a clinical geneticist at the Royal Hospital in Copenhagen, researching inherited diseases. She also holds a PhD degree in global health and cancer epidemiology.
Akrawi is currently leading Defend International, a Norway-based NGO whose mission is "to respond to grave violations of human rights and of International Humanitarian Law, monitor the implementation of preventive measures that are designed to end impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes, conduct medical research that may either directly or indirectly improve the health standard of communities, and to promote peace and democracy through cultural relations and diplomacy."
Dedication to human rights
Akrawi's passion for human rights started many years ago when she advocated for her classmates at her school. As she grew up, she helped to establish a secret working group against torture in Iraq, dedicated to collecting evidence of torture and other human rights abuses. In 1987, she was secretly interviewing the victims and their families. She raised awareness about the impacts of torture and other violations of human rights on civilians. In 1990, she was engaged in advocating for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the Middle East and North Africa region. She then co-founded a regional Women’s Working Group and organised programs to enhance women’s participation in peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction.
In Denmark, Akrawi launched campaigns, wrote articles for Danish, Arabic and Kurdish newspapers and spoke in panel discussions on human rights, international conventions and peace. In 2005, she was elected, among Arabic-speaking bloggers from around the world, as the MENA region’s most prominent blogger. She was awarded the prestigious title of “Queen Blogger" for two years until she resigned. Her first involvement with Amnesty International was in 1994, when she started to do volunteer work. In March 2006, the International Secretariat of Amnesty International thanked her for her efforts in support of Amnesty’s campaigns, especially her effective use of the internet as a tool for human rights education and mobilisation. In February 2006, she was appointed as "Stop Torture” ambassador for Amnesty’s Danish section. She was elected in the executive committee of Amnesty International Denmark in April 2006.
In June 2006, Akrawi co-chaired the first regional conference on control arms held in Cairo and was part of a delegation of high-profile activists who met with policy-makers at the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Egyptian Parliament. In June 2007, she quit Amnesty International and co-founded Defend International. Same year, she was elected as a co-chair of the Women’s Working Group on MENA Region.
Akrawi has created partner agreements with leading NGOs like the International Action Network on Small Arms, Cluster Munition Coalition and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. She has launched campaigns to defend the rights of writers, civil society activists, children (child/forced marriages), girls, women's rights defenders, students, professors, prisoners on death row and prisoners on hunger strikes. She has over 20 years of experiences in the areas of human rights, gender equality, women's empowerment, grassroots organising, intercultural communication, strategic planning, international security, peace and international conventions.
|“||Widad Akrawi has worked for a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty. Her research on MENA countries, lobbying, and advocacy helped bring about sweeping changes in the voting process in 2006, 2008 and 2013.||”|
|“||Akrawi has worked for a new Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict - a goal that was achieved in September 2013.||”|
|“||Akrawi has lobbied for the adoption of a resolution exclusively dedicated to illicit transfer, destabilising accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons around the world - a goal that was achieved in September 2013 by the adoption of Resolution 2117 (2013) Dedicated to Question of Small Arms and Light Weapons.||”|
|“||The momentum Dr. Akrawi created in favor of a UN resolution on a strong and an effective Arms Trade Treaty, her commitment to combat armed gender-based violence, and her successful lobbying for the adoption of the new UN Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict as well as the UN Resolution 2117 exclusively dedicated to illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons around the World are outstanding contributions to shifting the current culture of violence, and we are grateful for her work.||”|
Pfeffer Peace Prize
Dr. Akrawi has been awarded the 2014 International Pfeffer Peace Award for creating momentum in favor of a UN resolution on a strong and an effective Arms Trade Treaty to prevent the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons that might be used for acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, or terrorism, as well as for lobbying for the UN Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict and the UN Resolution 2117 dedicated to halting illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation, and misuse of small arms and light weapons around the world.
On 18 September 2014, Dr. Akrawi was announced by International Fellowship of Reconciliation as the recipient of the 2014 Pfeffer Peace Prize in recognition of her work worldwide for peace and justice. She became the first Scandinavian citizen, the third European citizen and the first Kurd to receive a Pfeffer Peace Prize.
On 13 October 2014, Rev. Lucas Johnson, International Coordinator for the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, presented the award on behalf of FOR-USA at an event arranged at the Oslo Peace House by FOR Norway. Dr. Akrawi dedicated the award to the 50 million refugees who have been displaced as a direct result of conflict, persecution or the irresponsible transfer of conventional arms. She particularly mentioned the Yazidis, Christians, and all residents of Kobane region.
Status and membership
- She is the first Scandinavian citizen, the first Kurd and the third European citizen to be listed as International Pfeffer Peace Award laureate.
- She has been listed among the world's top 10 people who might win a Nobel Peace Prize sometime in the future.
- She has been awarded the 2013 ‘Special Prize’ by the National Organisation for Future Generations for being a passionate advocate of bridging the gap between civilisations and cultures, and making valuable contributions to humanity through the creation of a culture of coexistence and harmony.
- One of the 100 public figures who were issued a universal citizenship passport because of their involvement with the cause of freedom of movement.
- President, Defend International (2007-Now).
- Defend International representative to the UN Fourth Biennial Meeting of States, held in New York to review the implementation of the Programme of Action to prevent, combat, and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects (14–18 June 2010).
- Defend International representative to the General Assembly Interactive Hearings with Non-governmental organizations, Civil society organizations and the Private sector. (UN Headquarters in NY, 14–15 June 2010).
- Defend International representative to the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security Committee) of the United Nations General Assembly (October 2009).
- Defend International representative to the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security Committee) of the United Nations General Assembly (October 2008).
- Defend International representative to the UN Third Biennial Meeting of States, held in New York to consider the implementation of the Programme of Action to prevent, combat, and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects (July 2008).
- Defend International representative to the 52nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women held at United Nations Headquarters in New York (February to March 2008).
- Defend International representative to the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security Committee) of the UN General Assembly (October 2007).
- Defend International representative to Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.
- Amnesty International lobbyist to the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security Committee) of the UN General Assembly (October 2006).
- Member of the board, Women of Europe Award, Denmark (2003-Now).
- Member of the board, International Women Steering Committee.
- Member of the IANSA Women's Network Working Group.
- Member of Cluster Munition Coalition.
- Member of the board, Amnesty International Denmark (30 April 2006- 18 June 2007).
- Ambassador for Amnesty International's Stop Torture campaign, Denmark (9 February 2006- 18 June 2007).
- Member of jury board, Amnesty International's Arabic Short Novel Competition (April 2006-June 2007).
- Establishment of a special blog for Amnesty's Control Arms Campaign (June 2006) 
- Statistical Versus Clinical Significance in Clinical Trials on Patients with Gestational Diabetes. Munich: GRIN Publishing GmbH. 2014. ISBN 978-3656572145.
- Measures of Asthma Status: Need for Standardized Methodologies for Management. Munich: GRIN Publishing GmbH. 2014. ISBN 978-3656572114.
- Predictors of Assisted-Living Residents' Mental Health Status. Munich: GRIN Publishing GmbH. 2014. ISBN 3656572089.
- The Association Between Vitamin E Intake and Lung Cancer Risk and the Effect Modification of Dietary Intake of Fat and Fatty Acids on This Association: A Case-Control Study Based on the NHANES Datasets 1999-2010. USA: ProQuest/UMI. 2013. ISBN 9781303351792.
- Proposed Evaluation of Cervical Cancer Prevention Strategies: Does Current Approach to Cervical Cancer Control Achieve Its Objectives?. Munich: GRIN Publishing GmbH. 2013. ISBN 365650752X.
- The Association Between Vitamin D Status and Colon Cancer Risk: A Review and Synthesis. Munich: GRIN Publishing GmbH. 2013. ISBN 3656509883.
- Statistical Evaluation of Two Medical Databases: A Framework for Descriptive, Bivariate, and Multivariate Analyses. Munich: GRIN Publishing GmbH. 2013. ISBN 3656506884.
- The Dose-Response Relationship of Vitamin E and Lung Cancer Risk: Empirical and Mechanism-Based Models. Munich: GRIN Publishing GmbH. 2013. ISBN 3656507694.
- Under Haabets Skygge [Under the Shadow of Hope] (in Danish) (1st ed.). Norway: Ashtee & Tara. 2013. ISBN 9788299931809.
- Global Burden of Disease and Epidemiological Aspects: Plausible Scenarios of Burden of Infectious and Chronic Diseases and Two Population Pyramids. Munich: GRIN Publishing GmbH. 2011. ISBN 3656507112.
- Taras bok (1st ed.). Norway: Zagros Publishing. 2005. ISBN 9788292628003.
- Taras bog: En beretning fra Kurdistan [Taras book: A Story from Kurdistan] (in Danish) (1st ed.). Denmark: Forum. 2003. ISBN 87-553-3420-2.
- Master's Thesis II: A Comprehensive Assessment of Biological Function of Newly Sequenced yutK Gene in Basillus Subtilis. Munich: GRIN Publishing GmbH. 1999. ISBN 978-3-656-47467-8.
- Master's Thesis I: Function-Analysis of Seventeen Function-Unknown Genes in Bacillus Subtilis. Munich: GRIN Publishing GmbH. 1998. ISBN 978-3-656-46782-3.
Humanitarian initiatives and peace and security efforts
- In 2005, Akrawi began advocating for a UN resolution on a strong and an effective Arms Trade Treaty to prevent the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons that might be used for acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, or terrorism.
- In 2005, she joined a Danish campaign to require a prohibition against torture in the Danish Criminal Code.
- In 2005, through engaging with online discussions, blogging and other interactive techniques, she was able to create online bridges to Arabic speaking audiences by becoming part of online dialogue and debate. In 2006, the International Secretariat of Amnesty International praised her activities in support of Amnesty’s campaigns - the activities that were thought to have greatly boosted Amnesty's "chances of success.”
- In 2008, she joined the project "Stop Trafficking Worldwide", a campaign to stop human trafficking worldwide.
- In 2008, Akrawi joined an international campaign against Eid aerial firing.
- In March 2008, she joined the international campaign to end gender-based violence at gunpoint.
- In June 2010, she addressed the UN Fourth Biennial Meeting of States, in New York to consider the implementation of the Programme of Action to prevent, combat, and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects. She shared her views on the importance of investing in a "Culture of Peace," expressing her concerns about the proliferation of illicit trade in SALW around the world, which has significantly intensified armed conflicts and made the proliferation of peace difficult to achieve. "Armed violence and peace cannot coexist. We need to overcome the challenges and seek practical solutions. We must replace the culture of war with the culture of peace," stated Akrawi.
- In February 2013, aiming to maintain the momentum created over the last seven years in favor of a strong and an effective Arms Trade Treaty, Akrawi called on UN negotiators of the Arms Trade Treaty to include a legally-binding provision to prevent armed gender-based violence. "We aim to provide new directions to assist in developing policy measures that counter the harmful impacts that illicit trade in small arms and light weapons have on vulnerable populations, especially on women and children" said Akrawi.
- In March 2013, she welcomed Kurdish leader call for cease-fire, urged the Turkish authorities not to waste this historic opportunity, and called on Scandinavian countries to take the lead in negotiating a peace deal in Turkey. "Today, we have a chance to make a difference, not only in the lives and future of the civilians witnessing these steps, but also in the lives of the generations yet to be born," expressed Akrawi.
- On the occasion of the World Refugee Day 2013, she underscored the significant contributions of resettled refugees to their new communities while expressing concern about the safety and well-being of all displaced populations. "Their challenges are many, but common for all refuges, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons is that they have either limited or no control over their own lives... Although the world is possibly facing the worst economic crisis in its history, we must not forget the plight of refugees around the world. The international community has a responsibility to protect the rights of vulnerable asylum seekers, refugees, and returnees. We call on Member States, humanitarian agencies, and other stakeholders involved in refugee protection to ensure high standards of protection for displaced persons in neighboring countries," said Akrawi.
- In October 2013, she emphasised the massive human cost of the prevailing crisis in Syria and underlined that the conflict has radically influenced regional security and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, making any global attempt to regulate the illicit trade in conventional weapons out of reach. “I have to admit that the sight of the refugees and their children has left me sleepless many nights. I am deeply saddened every time I see that people of all faiths who lived peacefully side by side are no longer tolerating each other. The brutality and misconduct they face daily is unimaginable… With their struggle to survive, comes all the horrible memories that will follow them for the rest of their lives…” added Akrawi. She characterised the crisis as a “humanitarian tragedy of historic proportions,” before urging the international community to do whatever possible to bring the crisis to an end in a peaceful and diplomatic manner.
- In 2014, she joined an international campaign launched by Child Rights International Network to end all executions of juvenile offenders and to protect the rights of child domestic workers.
- In July 2014, Dr Akrawi joined a global civil society initiative launched by Toxic Remnants of War Project to help strengthen protection for the environment and those who depend on it during and after conflict. In the preface she wrote for the publication “Pollution Politics: power, accountability and toxic remnants of war” she pointed out “it is believed that TRW may likely be associated with the risk of birth defects, the risk of developing certain forms of cancer, or may adversely affect the neurological development of children and the reproductive processes of humans and animals. They may also impair the function of the respiratory and immune systems, thereby compromising the ability to respond to pathogens and other harmful organisms. Across the world, the lack of accountability for the harm to the environment and public health caused by conflict and military activities undermines global efforts to help fragile countries recover from armed conflicts.” 
- In September 2014, Dr Akrawi launched a worldwide campaign entitled "Save The Yazidis: The World Has To Act Now" to raise awareness about the tragedy of the Yazidis in Northern Iraq and the humanitarian emergency that continued to unfold. "The plight of the Yazidis is a humanitarian tragedy, and we want to make sure that the victims are not forgotten, protected legally, fully assisted and compensated fairly," said Akrawi. She paid tribute to all countries that had supported any minorities during the Iraqi crisis and reiterated her call for the International community to urgently intervene.
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- "Dr. Widad Akrawi Xelata Aştiyê pêşkêşî Kobanê û Şengalê hat kirin". Retrieved 20 October 2014.
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- "En tanto, la irakí Widad Akrawi, advirtió en la sede de las Naciones Unidas que "un elemento indispensable para alcanzar la paz es controlar las armas pequeñas, es decir, implementar el Programa de Acción" creado por los países para tal fin". mdzol.com. Retrieved 20 June 2010.
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- ÇáÍÏø ãä ÇáÃÓáÍÉ
- الحد من الأسلحة (in Arabic)
- "Dr. Akrawi's Publication on Gestational Diabetes at Amazon.com".
- "Dr. Akrawi's Publication on Measures of Asthma Status at Amazon.com".
- "Dr. Akrawi's Publication on Predictors of Assisted-Living Residents' Mental Health Status at Amazon.com".
- "Medical Books by Dr. Akrawi".
- "Dr. Akrawi's Publication on Cervical Cancer at Grin.com".
- "Dr. Akrawi's Publication on Colon Cancer at Amazon.com".
- "Dr. Akrawi's Publication on Colon Cancer at Grin.com".
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- "Dr. Akrawi's Publication on Medical Databases at Grin.com".
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- "Dr. Akrawi's Publication on Lung Cancer at Grin.com".
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- "145,000 signatures supporting a prohibition against torture in the Danish Criminal Code". Retrieved 2009-11-04.
- "Stop Trafficking Worldwide". Women Of Europe Award. Retrieved 2009-11-04.
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