Culture of Human Rights
Image license: CC BY 2.0
Asma Jilani Jahangir (Urdu: عاصمہ جہانگیر, romanized: ʿĀṣimah Jahāṉgīr; 27 January 1952 – 11 February 2018) was a Pakistani human rights lawyer and social activist who co-founded and chaired the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Jahangir was known for playing a prominent role in the Lawyers’ Movement and served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief and as a trustee at the International Crisis Group.Born and raised in Lahore, Jahangir studied at the Convent of Jesus and Mary before receiving her B.A. from Kinnaird and LLB from the Punjab University in 1978. In 1980, she was called to the Lahore High Court, and to the Supreme Court in 1982. In the 1980s, Jahangir became a democracy activist and was imprisoned in 1983 for participating in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy against the military regime of Zia-ul-Haq. In 1986, she moved to Geneva, and became the vice-chair of the Defence for Children International and remained until 1988 when she returned to Pakistan.In 1987, Jahangir co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and became its Secretary-General. In 1993, she was elevated as the commission’s chairperson. She was again put under house arrest in November 2007 after the imposition of emergency. After serving as one of the leaders of the Lawyers’ Movement, she became Pakistan’s first woman to serve as the President of Supreme Court Bar Association. She co-chaired South Asia Forum for Human Rights and was the vice president of International Federation for Human Rights. Jahangir served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion from August 2004 to July 2010, including serving on the U.N. panel for inquiry into Sri Lankan human rights violations and on a fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements. In 2016, she was named as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, remaining until her death in February 2018.Jahangir is the recipient of several awards including the 2014 Right Livelihood Award (along with Edward Snowden) for “defending, protecting and promoting human rights in Pakistan and more widely, often in very difficult and complex situations and at great personal risk”, 2010 Freedom Award, Hilal-i-Imtiaz in 2010, Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2005, 1995 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, and the UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights. She was awarded a Legion of Honour by France, and in 2016 the University of Pennsylvania Law School awarded her a honorary degree. Her writings include The Hudood Ordinance: A Divine Sanction? and Children of a Lesser God.Jahangir was posthumously awarded the Nishan-e-Imtiaz on 23 March 2018, the highest degree of service to the state, and for services to international diplomacy by Mamnoon Hussain.