Karima Bennoune is a professor of international law and Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall Research Scholar at the University of California–Davis School of Law. She grew up in Algeria and the United States and now lives in California.
In 2015, she was appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights. During her first year in post, she focused on the issue which will be the subject of her 2017 TEDxExeter talk – the intentional destruction of cultural heritage as a violation of human rights. She authored two reports, including one for the General Assembly that was endorsed by Maestro Placido Domingo. She also carried out related country missions to Cyprus, Serbia and Kosovo. As special rapporteur, she has worked hard to promote the recognition of cultural heritage as a human rights issue, taking this message to diverse gatherings organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross, UNESCO, the Smithsonian Institution, NATO, and others and ultimately seeing this view endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council. During the second year of her term, her priority will be the impact of diverse forms of fundamentalism and extremism on cultural rights.
In her personal capacity, she is the author of Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism, inspired by her father’s experiences in his native Algeria, and based on interviews with more than 300 people of Muslim heritage from more than 30 countries – including artists, museum directors, and cultural arts promoters – working against extremism and terror. The book won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize in 2014, and was labelled one of the “books we should all be reading” by The Guardian. It was also the basis of her first TEDxExeter talk: When people of Muslim heritage confront fundamentalism which has been viewed nearly 1.4 million times.
She has appeared frequently on television and radio to discuss related issues, including on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox Business News, as well BBC Radio and National Public Radio, and has published widely in many leading academic journals, as well as in The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian: Comment is Free, with Reuters and on the websites of the Huffington Post, Open Democracy and Al Jazeera English.
In 2016, she was honored by the International Action Network for Gender Equity & Law with its Rights and Leadership Award..