A Celebration of Courage: IGLHRC Announces 2008 Felipa de Souza Award Winners

<a href="http://www.iglhrc.org/php/section.php?sitename=spanish&id=39&detail=118"><strong>Click here to read the press release in Spanish</strong> </a>
For Immediate Release
Contact: Hossein Alizadeh, IGLHRC Communications Coordinator, 212-430-6016
Sarah Tobias, IGLHRC Communications and Research Manager, 212-430-6034

(New York, NY, March 4, 2008) - The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) announced today that it would award its 2008 Felipa de Souza Award to two outstanding nominees—the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO) and Chilean trans activist Andrés Ignacio Rivera Duarte. IGLHRC’s Felipa Award recognizes the courage and effectiveness of groups or leaders dedicated to improving the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) and other individuals stigmatized and abused because of their sexuality or HIV status. Each award winner will receive a $5,000 stipend. The awards will be presented at a special ceremony in New York on April 28, 2008.

"We are so honored this year to be able present this award to two extraordinarily powerful voices for LGBTI human rights," said Paula Ettelbrick, IGLHRC’s executive director. "IRQO provides absolutely vital assistance for lesbian and gay Iranians fleeing the threat of death in their home country, literally helping to save and rebuild countless lives and Andrés Rivera has been an enormously courageous pioneer for the rights of trans people in Chile. It is truly our pleasure to honor all that these remarkable activists have done to promote human rights and dignity for LGBTI people."

In 2005, Andrés Ignacio Rivera Duarte, a trans man, founded Organización de Transexuales por la Dignidad de la Diversidad, the first NGO in Chile dedicated to fighting for trans people’s rights, which he currently heads. He has worked with government and the local health system to facilitate the evaluation, treatment and surgery of trans people, and organized the first Rancagua debate on the Civil Union Pact. But his work is not just with high-level officials; he also provides direct support to sex workers—visiting them nightly to distribute coffee, food and information about HIV/AIDS. Himself the victim of employment discrimination, he fought a landmark lawsuit, bringing issues of gender identity into the public view, finally winning the right for trans people to legally change their name and sex in 2007.

Founded in 2001 as the Rainbow Group, and known as the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization until 2006, IRQO serves as the representative of thousands of Iranian queers, giving visibility to a population the Iranian government is aggressively trying to silence. Based in Toronto, Canada, with members working out of Europe and Iran, IRQO has played a key role in documenting LGBT rights violations in Iran and in mobilizing public opinion to pressure Iranian authorities to end the inhumane treatment of sexual minorities. The organization also helps gay and lesbian refugees around the world to fight deportation orders that would return them to Iran—where they could face torture or the death penalty—and helps them obtain asylum in friendly countries. IRQO strives to increase the self-esteem of Iranian queers by offering phone counseling inside Iran and raising awareness of homosexuality in the Persian-speaking media.

"We are thrilled that the international community has come to acknowledge the LGBT rights struggle in Iran," said Arsham Parsi, IRQO’s executive director. "We can no longer claim that no one cares about our plight. This is not an award just for IRQO. We accept this award on behalf of all Iranian queers who have been long fighting for their basic human rights. The stipend will allow IRQO to continue its campaign for human rights and to challenge homophobia in Iran."

"I receive this award with humility and honor," said Andrés Rivera. "On behalf of murdered trans people, of those who fight to build a more egalitarian and fair world, and of those trans people who day-by-day live with the pain of not being considered human beings."

Nominations for the Felipa Award are solicited each year from activists around the world. Nominees go through a rigorous review by the staff, board and the International Advisory Committee of IGLHRC. The award embodies the spirit of Felipa de Souza, who endured persecution and brutality after proudly declaring her intimacy with a woman during a 16th Century inquisition trial in Brazil.

Previous Felipa Award winners include: the Blue Diamond Society (BDS) of Nepal; Rauda Morcos, founder of ASWAT (Voices) the first group for Palestinian lesbians; Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), the first organization to push for the human rights of LGBT people in Zimbabwean society and to provide counseling services and HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns; Simon Tseko Nikoli, the famed LGBT/HIV activist from South Africa; Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, whose leader Brian Williamson was murdered in 2004; Lohana Berkins, a globally recognized transgender activist from Argentina; and Maher Sabry, the Egyptian activist who notified IGLHRC of the arrests of the Cairo 52, a group of 52 men who were arrested by the Egyptian police at a Cairo gay nightclub in 2001.

For more information regarding IGLHRC’s Felipa de Souza Award and its A Celebration of Courage events, visit: www.iglhrc.org

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The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is a leading human rights organization solely devoted to improving the rights of people around the world who are targeted for imprisonment, abuse or death because of their sexuality, gender identity or HIV/AIDS status. IGLHRC addresses human rights violations by partnering with and supporting activists in countries around the world, monitoring and documenting human rights abuses, engaging offending governments, and educating international human rights officials. A non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, with offices in Johannesburg and Buenos Aires. Visit www.iglhrc.org for more information.