Zakat Foundation’s CEO Wins Lincoln Anti-Slavery Award

CHICAGO – The Abolition Institute, a leading anti-slavery group, honored Zakat Foundation of America Executive Director Halil Demir Friday February 9 with its highest award for “carrying on Abraham Lincoln’s legacy by fighting modern-day slavery.”

“We can sit and talk and do all this organizing—governments, institutions, nonprofits, and everything else,” said Demir. “But before all this, you have to ask yourself, ‘What am I doing? What can I do?’”

The 5th Annual Aichana Abeid Boilil Awards event at the DuSable Museum of African American History commemorates Abraham Lincoln’s birthday by recognizing those fighting to end institutionalized slavery and human trafficking in Mauritania.

The award marks a uniquely American and international recognition personally for Demir as a leader in the new abolitionist movement against modern slavery, as well as the work he directs at the Zakat Foundation.

Abolition Institute founders named the award for the first Mauritanian woman rescued from slavery by its partner organization SOS Esclaves in the West African country, where she continues to work to end slavery.

“Halil’s point is challenge,” said Abolition Board Member Rev. Mitchell Johnson. “Stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.”

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Anthony Simpkins, part of a September 2017 human trafficking fact-finding mission rebuffed by the Mauritania government at its airport, said the group met with escaped activist slaves in Dakar, Senegal.

“We sat and talked, face to face, with real heroes—people who had been jailed, who had been tortured, whose friends and families had died. These are people who are fighting the fight everyday in a very, very real way. They’re the reason that we do what we do.”

Australia’s Walk Free Movement’s Global Slavery Index estimates 156,000 Mauritanians, 4 percent of the population, live as slaves. Mauritania outlawed slavery in 2007 and toughened laws against its practice in 2015 with a 20-year prison sentence. But it lacks the enforcement to end the deeply imbedded social practice.

Zakat Foundation of America has been committed to uplifting the vulnerable and down-trodden since 2001. Its development, education and vocational training programs empower vulnerable and dispossessed girls and women to give them a shield against human trafficking predators.


Founded in 2001, Zakat Foundation of America helps generous and caring people reach out to those in need. Zakat Foundation of America’s mission is to address immediate needs and ensure the self-reliance of the poorest people around the world. Zakat Foundation of America conducts humanitarian assistance programs in more than 50 countries. For more information, please visit

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