Hassan Shire (Somalia)

Hassan Shire is the executive director of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (DefendDefenders) and Chairperson of the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network (PAHRD-Net).  Under Shire’s leadership, DefendDefenders provides emergency protection, advocacy, awareness raising, capacity building, and technological support to human rights defenders. Shire founded and co-directed the Dr. Ismail Jumale Human Rights Centre (1996-2001) and was the Chairperson of Peace and Human Rights Network (1998-2001) in Mogadishu, Somalia, before he was forced to flee Somalia by extremist groups.

While in asylum in Canada, he worked with the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University and Amnesty International Canada to create the African Human Rights Defenders Project. This led to his return to the continent in 2005 and the founding of DefendDefenders in Uganda. He later co-founded the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network and the Pan African Human Rights Defenders network. Shire was also actively involved in building coalitions for the protection of human rights defenders in the east and Horn of Africa namely in Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Somalia/Somaliland.

Shire regularly engages with African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, UN Human Rights Council, the Community of Democracies, government authorities, and African and foreign diplomatic missions for the advancement of human rights in Africa. He is currently Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the Centre for Civil and Political Rights (Geneva, Switzerland), board member of the Institute of Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (Banjul, The Gambia), and Board member of the African Center for Justice and Peace and Studies (Kampala, Uganda).  

Shire has received numerous awards from the international community including the U.S. State Department’s 2011 Human Rights Defender Award, the Leadership Awards of the Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network in 2015, and the Richard C. Holbrooke Leadership Award by Refugees International in 2017.

Watch as Shire reflects on his experience with the World Movement as a young activist from Somalia and how the global and regional network provided him support to break through traditional barriers.