The European Union was founded on principles of human rights and freedom of expression. That's why the European Parliament supports countries like Tunisia in their ongoing efforts towards democracy. This support comes in the form of legal and political action including the Sakharov Prize and the Sakharov Fellowship. Meet Asma Kaouech, a Tunisian activist and Sakharov fellow, who tells us her story.
How far can a people go in six years? What is the path towards democracy? Since the Jasmine Revolution, the European Parliament has strongly supported Tunisia's ongoing efforts towards democracy. The time has come for democracy in Tunisia. This is what is important: today there is freedom, a great freedom. This freedom strengthens human rights. But I still do not think we have built a true culture of human rights yet. The European Parliament supports human rights through legal and political action such as the Sakharov Prize and the Sakharov Fellowships. I was among those selected for the Sakharov Fellowships 2017. I consider it a privilege. It has allowed me to meet Members of Parliament and European decision-makers, to talk to them, and touch upon topics and issues that concern my country, Tunisia. For example: the situation regarding women's rights, regarding human rights in the prisons, subjects that jointly affect Tunisia and the European Union, such as migration, the issue of terrorism. The European Parliament strongly defends human rights in all areas. The rule of law must prevail under all circumstances and the freedom of association, assembly and expression must be protected by all means. Because women are the victims of violence, of discrimination, are excluded from education, from employment, the economy and politics, we have to fight, 365 days a year. In the times that we are living in, rights are seen as a luxury that is incompatible with the economic crisis, with diminishing financial resources, and the requirements of internal stability within certain countries. I am thinking about countries close to us. Becoming a Sakharov Fellow has allowed me to really feel like I'm a member of an international community that includes more than 14 defenders of human rights from around the world. We talk to each other practically daily. Among these 14 activists, there are many who are working anonymously, who are threatened in their own countries. These rights do not invade democracy but they force you to think about how people can be given the opportunity to exercise political choice. It is precisely in such difficult times that the criteria for their distribution must be based on the obligation to make implementation possible. I think that the definitive role of the European Union is to maintain the fight, showing the solidarity necessary to win this challenge by giving human rights everywhere. Thank you.