Leila Alikarami is a lawyer, human rights advocate, and an academic.At the national level she is a recognized human right lawyer and women’s rights expert. Internationally, she has been honored by the European Union as a 2016 Sakharov Fellow in human rights and received the Anna Politkovskaya Award in 2009 from Reach All Women in War on behalf of the One Million Signatures Campaign. In 2017she was profiled byManon Schick, Amnesty Switzerland director, as one of her heroines in her book titled “MES HEROINES DES FEMMES QUI S'ENGAGENT”.
As an advocate and lawyer, Leila’s priority is to help women utilizing any creative avenue, particularly when the government and laws failed to protect them. She has taken every measure to defend women facing domestic violence. She represented them in court and brought her clients’ stories to the media to raise public awareness, helping change discriminatory laws. She was one of the first women’s rights activists who raised the issue of marital rape in Iran and have written articles and given interviews in the media on the matter.
Dr. Alikarami has written several academic articles on the issues related to women in Persian language in Iran. She has published numerous articles in influential English, French Spanish, and Persian language media worldwide such as Huffington Post (US and France), BBC Persian (UK), Al Monitor, Open Democracy, El Pais (Spain), Shargh (Iran), Etemad (Iran), El Desconcierto (Chile), and ReproductiveHealth Rewire (US). Currently she is working on her book, "Women, Law and Activism in Iran" which will be published by I.B Touris in 2018.
She has been invited to speak on women’s rights and human rights at prestigious insitutions including the Graduate Institute Geneva (Switzerland), University of London (UK), St Antony’s College (UK), St Andrews University (UK), Amnesty International (Switzerland), Nobel Women’s Initiative Biennial International Conference (the Netherlands), AWID Forum (Turkey), German-Iranian Law Association (Germany) and Raw in War (UK).
She has been engaged in international seminars and the CSW and she built a network of women combatting discrimination in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Tunisia, Morocco, and more. As a bystander of the Iran-Iraq war, Leila was able to better understand the situation of women and girls in war and conflict zone. She has worked with women survivors of landmines who mostly belong to ethnic minority groups. She is the founder of Iran Without Landmines Campaign.
In 2006, Leila, with other Iranian women’s rights activists, launched the One Million Signatures Campaign to pressure Iranian government into ending legal discrimination against Iranian women. The women activists were charged with threatening national security, she took their cases and represented them in courts.
Dr. Alikarami believes human rights is an innate right – no matter what culture or religion one is born in - and even in a discriminatory Islamic legal context there are avenues to bring Islamic law into harmony with international women’s rights norms. In every case she had used Islamic law and international law side by side, and had demonstrated how these bodies of laws together could promote human rights and universal rights. Indeed, she relies heavily on international norms and the work of UN bodies to bolster her day-to-day efforts whether she advocate in the media for legislative reforms or advocate for her clients’ right to divorce an abusive husband. In short, Dr. Alikarami has tested academic theories in practice and has first hand experience using UN norms and procedures to promote domestic level reforms.