Each year, the Department of State honors individuals around the world who have devoted their lives to the fight against human trafficking. These individuals are NGO workers, lawmakers, police officers, and concerned citizens who are committed to ending modern slavery. They are recognized for their tireless efforts – despite resistance, opposition, and threats to their lives – to protect victims, punish offenders, and raise awareness of ongoing criminal practices in their countries and abroad.
Azezet Habtezghi Kidane, also known as Sister Aziza, is a member of the Comboni Missionary Sisters from Eritrea. She volunteers as a nurse for the NGO Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) and has called attention to human trafficking in Sinai, Egypt for the past two years. Her painstaking work led to a groundbreaking research project that has interviewed hundreds of victims of sexual slavery and African asylum seekers living in Israel. This could not have been accomplished without the devotion of Sister Aziza who helped identify men, women, and children who had been kidnapped, repeatedly raped, or subjected to forced labor and sexual servitude.
Sister Aziza’s perseverance, heartfelt concern, and willingness to listen to countless hours of interviews enabled many victims to open up about their horrific experiences with modern slavery. Whereas previously little was known of the specific atrocities in Egypt, these documented first-hand accounts have led to widespread international media reporting and attention to human trafficking in the region. The State Department has relied on the work of Sister Aziza and PHR-I to promote awareness of this important issue.