June 20th is World Refugee Day
AAWE Member Asma Darwish, a member of the FAWCO Human Rights team and the FAWCO Refugee Network, shared her story during the monthly virtual call of the Human Rights team.

Here is her story, taken from the meeting notes:

Asma, a Bahraini citizen who has been granted refugee status and is residing in France, gave us an overview of her story which began when she was a student activist at Bahrain Polytechnic where she organized and participated in student protests and peaceful political movements that started in February 2011. For these activities, she was expelled from the institution in the last year of her studies. She also witnessed the marginalization of others who participated in protests against the government, demanding political and social reforms, including equality of participation in the workings of the government. These people were dismissed from their jobs and were targeted via posts on social media for arrest for participating in anti-government protests.

At the young age of 20, in June of that same year (2011), and after some of her family members found themselves arrested and even some of whom “disappeared”, Asma went on a hunger strike to draw attention to the unjust plight of many in Bahrain and raised her profile by bringing a letter addressed to the United Nations Secretary General to the United Nations offices in Bahrain. She and two of her compatriots were arrested for this. Asma had used Twitter to communicate her plight, catching the eye of Helen Clark, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand who advocated for her release.

Since 2011, Asma has been a Human Rights Defender and has been working with different local and international human rights organizations, most recently as an advocacy officer with the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) which is a non-profit, non-governmental organization, registered with the Bahraini Ministry of Labor and Social Services since July 2002. Despite an order by the Bahraini authorities in November 2004 to close down, BCHR is still functioning after gaining broad local and international support for its struggle to promote human rights in Bahrain. The vast majority of BCHR operations are carried out in Bahrain, while a small office in exile, founded in 2011, is maintained in Copenhagen, Denmark, to coordinate the international advocacy program. For more than 18 years, BCHR has carried out numerous projects, including advocacy, digital security trainings, workshops, seminars, research, media campaigns and reporting to UN human rights mechanisms and international NGOs. BCHR has also participated in many regional and international conferences and workshops in addition to testifying in national parliaments across Europe, the European Parliament, and the US Congress. BCHR has received funding from the Norwegian Human Rights Fund (NHRF), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the Sigrid Rausing Trust (SRT), CIVICUS, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) and the Digital Defenders Partnership (DDP). BCHR has received numerous international awards for its efforts to promote democracy and human rights in Bahrain, such as the Rafto Award, the Baldwin Medal of Liberty, among others.

Asma is based in France, where she does advocacy work and carries out research to promote change and tries to be the “voice for the voiceless, for isn’t that what advocacy is all about?”. Some examples of her work done in collaboration with other advocates includes having an impact that ended the awful torture situation that was common in Bahraini prisons, helping in the release of many prisoners of conscience from imprisonment, and also in providing adequate medical care for prisoners.

Asma tries to focus her effort into realizing basic human rights in her country: rights like freedom of expression, which is almost totally restricted in Bahrain. Asma engages with the United Nations in Geneva and reports closely to its mechanisms and collaborates with many organizations, among them, Amnesty International, the FIDH (Paris) and Front Line Defenders (Ireland).
Her mission is to encourage and support individuals and groups to be proactive in the protection of their own and others’ rights; to struggle to promote democracy and human rights in accordance with international norms; to document and report on human rights violations in Bahrain; and to carry on advocacy to influence international policies according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Some of her recent work was producing a thematic report to evaluate the situation of women’s rights in Bahrain: for example, Bahraini women cannot pass on their nationality to their children in Bahrain. Her works sometimes include the GCC States*.

*Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), political and economic alliance of six Middle Eastern countries—Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman.

Asma speaks 6 languages fluently and often translates among them. She wants to speak Turkish fluently, “that's my future project”, she told us. She has been in France for almost five years and has taken time to learn French and settle into her new home. She lived briefly in New Zealand for her studies and also in Switzerland. She is happy in France; it is her “home away from home.” She finds she “is enough for here and also enough for there. A global citizen!”

On World Refugee Day, the FAWCO Refugee Network was happy to film an interview with Asma with the aim of putting a human face on the word “refugee”.

In this interview Asma talks about her work as a human rights defender, where she lives now, what she misses most from back home, what makes her laugh, what she hates most, which of her hopes have come true, what she recommends for others to be more aware of their rights and how being a refugee has changed her. We are very proud to have Asma as a FAWCO member and an active member of the FAWCO Refugee Network.

Watch the interview here: https://www.fawco.org/global-issues/human-rights/human-rights-articles/4349-world-refugee-day-2020

If you are interested in engaging with the Fawco Refugee Network, please contact them via the FAWCO Refugee Network email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Please also join the FAWCO Refugee Network Facebook group. You can also follow and connect with Asma on her instagram account (asma.darwish) where she shares more about her life with her kids in France and her work on human rights.

FAWCO Refugee Network Interview with Asma Darwish - World Refugee Day

Join the FAWCO Refugee Network facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/180885219239491/

AAWE members are automatically part of FAWCO (Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas), the oldest and largest civilian organization of overseas Americans. AAWE members can participate in programs and activities offered by FAWCO and have access to a vast array of resources resulting from their impressive work.

Founded in 1931 by Caroline Curtis Brown, FAWCO is a global women’s NGO (Non-Governmental Organization), an international network of independent volunteer clubs and associations comprising 65 member clubs in 34 countries worldwide, with a total membership of around 12,000. FAWCO’s founders believed that enlightened women, working cooperatively throughout the world, could do much to help achieve international peace. Today, FAWCO

  • serves as a resource and a voice for its American and international members;
  • seeks to improve the lives of women and girls worldwide;
  • advocates for the rights of US citizens overseas;
  • contributes to the global community through its Global Issues Teams and The FAWCO Foundation, which provides development grants and education awards.

Since 1997, FAWCO has held special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council.

US Issues

If you are an American living overseas you may have many questions about your rights and responsibilities. FAWCO’s US Issues Committees serve as a valuable resource to assist you with US Citizenship, Tax and Banking, Voting from Overseas, and to work for more effective representation in Washington. In fact, did you know that FAWCO was instrumental in the creation of the Americans Abroad Caucus? Learn more by clicking on http://www.fawcofoundation.org/our-programs/overview.html.

Global Issues

Resolution #2 of FAWCO's Resolutions and Recommendations for 2017-2019 establishes our commitment to improve the lives of women and girls worldwide, especially in the areas of education, the environment, health and human rights. Therefore, our Global Issues Teams focus on these four issues.

  • The Education Team informs FAWCO members about recent developments in the global effort to achieve universal primary education, especially related to issues in education for girls.
  • The Environment Team informs members about global environmental issues including air, soil and water pollution, species extinction, energy efficiency, conservation, waste reduction, and climate change.
  • The Health Issues Team provides information related to women's health and aging. Since 2014, Clubs in Motion has tracked FAWCO clubs’ collective running, walking and hiking activities.
  • The Human Rights Team keeps members aware of new developments having an impact on women’s rights, including United Nations updates, and engages FAWCO member clubs in awareness and action campaigns.

Target Program

At the FAWCO Interim Meeting in Frankfurt, Education – Empowering Women and Girls through Knowledge and Skills, was announced as the overarching theme for the FAWCO Target Program 2016-2019. Hope Beyond Displacement, an initiative of the Collateral Repair Project in Amman, Jordan, was chosen as the Target Project in April 2017. https://www.fawco.org/global-issues/target-program/education/target-project


FAWCO offers regular education awards to members through its philanthropic arm, The FAWCO Foundation, and to the children or grandchildren of members. (Would your kids like to study or spend a summer at camp in the US? Would you like funding to learn a new skill?) For more information, see http://www.fawcofoundation.org/our-programs/overview.html

Join us!

FAWCO and The FAWCO Foundation proudly presented our first Symposium open to FAWCO Member Clubs/FAUSA as well as to the general public on October 8-9, 2016.

The theme was STAND UP Against Human Trafficking by becoming an "everyday hero."

The Symposium included multimedia presentations; personal accounts of rescue and recovery; strategy and tools used by anti-trafficking organizations, a networking forum, and interactive audience discussions. The Symposium facilitated a candid exchange of views and information, insights, solutions and practical toolkits for participants


The theme for the 2017 16 Days Campaign will be "From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All!"

The campaign theme "recognizes the dire situation for millions of girls and boys, and young women and men, whose universal human right to education is daily impacted or cut short due to violence, lack of resources, and discrimination", fitting right in with the topic of the new Target Project. The Campaign takes place over 16 days: November 25 to December 10, 2017. Watch for an announcement from the Human Rights and Education Task Forces and the Target Program on suggested activities for your club, so that you can start planning soon.


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Human Rights Task Force

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Symposium - STAND UP Against Human Trafficking

FAWCO and The FAWCO Foundation proudly presented our first Symposium open to FAWCO Member Clubs/FAUSA as well as to...

FAWCO Member, Asma Darwish: a Bahraini human rights defender, a global citizen and a refugee

June 20th is World Refugee Day AAWE Member Asma Darwish, a member of the FAWCO Human Rights team and the FAWCO Refugee...
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