Palestinian human rights activist in Gaza. He is the founder and director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
Raji Sourani of Gaza , the 1991 Robert F. Kennedy Human rights Award winner, has been a lawyer in Gaza for more than thirty years. His work on human rights, especially in calling attention to human rights abuses by both the Israeli Occupation and the Palestinian Authority, has brought him international attention. It has also brought him periods of imprisonment and torture by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities.
In spite of his incarceration he has continued to be a voice for justice and hope as the founder and director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and former director of the Gaza Center for Rights and Law. For Sourani, his work is rooted in a belief in human rights. "I simply believe that human rights, democracy, and the rule of law are not luxuries. They are crucial necessities - the oxygen of meaningful life," Sourani explains. "We see the violations on a daily basis. We see the victims, we know them, and we live with them. What keeps us going is the belief that you can do something, even if it is just a little something." Each year his work becomes harder and also more vital.
More recently, Sourani’s work has faced a new challenge in reminding the international community that Gaza remains under occupation even following the 2005 Israeli withdrawal of settlers from the territory. Even without settlements, Gaza remains under Israeli control as Israel controls all travel in and out of Gaza which is surrounded by a wall built by the Israeli military. Sourani has also sought to draw attention to the deteriorating situation for Gazans as victims of Palestinian factional infighting. His willingness to be critical of Palestinians as well as Israelis has put his life in jeopardy many times.
Throughout this struggle he has tried to maintain contact with his Israeli counterparts in human rights work, despite being unable to meet with them physically. This solidarity he has extended to worldwide struggles against human rights abuses, and has been an impassioned advocate for oppressed people everywhere. Sourani explains, "I don’t believe in violence, and I don’t think it is a solution. Nor do I believe that Palestinians are the only ones whose blood is sacred. All human life is sacred, no matter which nationality, race or religion."