Meet the 2017 Human Rights Award Winners

The 2017 Don & Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award will be presented to Mark Hetfield. Mark Hetfield is the President and CEO of HIAS and an expert in refugee and immigration law, policy, and programs. HIAS is one of the oldest refugee assistance organizations in the nation. Originally established to assist Jews fleeing the pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe, HIAS, under Mr. Hetfield's leadership, has transformed from an organization focused on Jewish immigrants to a global agency assisting refugees of all faiths and ethnicities. Mr. Hetfield is being honored for his vision and long-standing commitment to the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

Genoveva Tisheva will receive The Advocates' inaugural Human Rights Defender Award. Genoveva Tisheva, the executive director of the Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation. Ms. Tisheva has been a leader in the international human rights movement for more than twenty years. Largely because of Ms. Tisheva's drive and vision, Bulgaria has become a leader in the region on law reform related to violence against women.

Representative Ilhan Omar will receive a Special Recognition Award. Elected to the legislature in November 2016, Ilhan Omar is the first Somali-American, Muslim woman in the nation to hold an office at this level. Prior to her election, she served as the Director of Policy Initiatives at Women Organizing Women, where she empowered East African women to take civic leadership roles in their community.

Also receiving Special Recognition is the MSP Airport Rapid Response Team spontaneously formed in the hours following the executive order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Within days more than 300 Minnesota lawyers volunteered to help people affected by the Muslim travel ban.

Volunteer Recognition Awards will be presented to:

Karam Law for their work mentoring attorneys in pro bono asylum cases.

Sarah Vander Zanden for many years of dedicated service to the organization.

Gerry Tyrrell for his work on LGBTI rights in Namibia.

David Seng Chor and Yorn Yan for translation and assistance in The Advocates' work on behalf of victims of the Khmer Rouge.