Archive for the 'Human Rights Foundation' Category

Film “THE STORY WON’T DIE” about Syrian protest art

June 18, 2022

THE STORY WON’T DIE is an inspiring, timely look at a young generation of Syrian artists who use their work to protest and process what is currently the world’s largest and longest ongoing displacement of people since World War II. The film is produced by Sundance Award-winning producer Odessa Rae (Navalny). Rapper Abu Hajar, together with other celebrated creative personalities of the Syrian uprising, including post-rock musician Anas Maghrebi, members of the first all female Syrian rock band Bahila Hijazi and Lynn Mayya, breakdancer Bboy Shadow, choreographer Medhat Aldaabal, and visual artists Tammam Azzam, Omar Imam and Diala Brisly, use their art to rise in revolution and endure in exile in this new documentary reflecting on a battle for peace, justice, and freedom of expression. It is an uplifting and humanizing look at what it means to be a refugee in today’s world, and offers inspiring and hopeful vantages on a creative response to the chaos of war.

The Human Rights Foundation organised the New York Premiere of THE STORY WON’T DIE on Friday, June 17 at Cinema VillageThe screening was followed by a Q&A with award-winning filmmaker David Henry Gerson and the film’s co-producer Abdalaziz Alhamza.

https://mailchi.mp/hrf.org/you-are-invited-june-15th-screening-of-the-dissident-288999?e=f80cec329e

NGOs condemn arbitrary arrest of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong

May 15, 2022

NOGs (such as Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Foundation) have condemned the arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen, as well as the lawyer Joseph Zen, the singer Denise Ho and the scholar Hui Po-Keung, for having maintained contacts with foreign forces in Hong Kong.

HRW Senior China researcher Maya Wang, said that “the arrest of a 90-year-old cardinal is the latest example of the city’s human rights freefall in recent years.

The four, along with former lawmaker Cyd Ho, who is already in jail, were part of the 612 Humanitarian Aid Fund, which provided medical, legal and psychological help to protesters arrested during the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Kong.

Denise Ho, Margaret Ng, and others affiliated with Stand News, an independent pro-democracy online publication, were previously arrested by national security police in December 2021 under allegations of publishing “seditious” and “inflammatory” materials. Denise Ho formerly served on the board of Stand News, but stepped down in November 2021. Meanwhile, the 612 Humanitarian Support Fund ceased operations in October 2021 after national security police and Chinese state-backed media requested information on its beneficiaries and donors.

Maya Wang has specified that Hong Kong has “long been a regional leader in openness and respect for the rule of law, but now competes for the first places in Asia for repression and political prisoners.”

The people of Hong Kong have been unequivocal in their demand for human rights, and governments around the world should be unequivocal in their response to that call,” concluded the HRW researcher.

https://mailchi.mp/hrf.org/hong-kong-hrf-condemns-arbitrary-arrest-of-denise-ho-and-colleagues?e=f80cec329e

2022 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent

May 10, 2022

On 3 May 2022 the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) announced the three recipients of the 2022 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent.

The 2022 laureates are: professional basketball player and human rights advocate Enes Kanter Freedom, Iranian artist project PaykanArtCar, and Ukrainian-born Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova. This year’s laureates will receive their awards on Wednesday, May 25, during the 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum.

Enes Kanter Freedom is a professional basketball player and vocal advocate for human rights. Since the start of the 2021 NBA season, he has used his global platform to consistently raise awareness of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s human rights abuses. Using his basketball shoes as the canvas for his messages, he wore multiple artistic designs highlighting issues such as the Uyghur genocide, the occupation of Tibet, slave labor at the Nike shoe factories, and the intolerance of China’s dictator. As a result of his creative dissent, he is now banned from China and was dropped by both the Boston Celtics and the Houston Rockets, despite being only 29 years old and in the prime of his career. Freedom’s perseverance has captured the attention of international media and informed millions of sports fans about the global struggle for individual rights in places like Tibet and the Uyghur region. At a time when professional athletes display incessant hypocrisy, unlimited greed, and double standards, Freedom emerges as the moral conscience of professional basketball. Freedom first came to international attention as an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, making him a target of Turkey’s government — he was deemed a “terrorist” by the regime, stripped of his passport, and was publicly disowned by his family. In late 2021, he changed his name and added “Freedom” as his official last name. See: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/525e5018-7f56-4009-85b8-3f3cce9a8810

The PaykanArtCar unites the talents of contemporary Iranian artists in the diaspora with a beloved symbol of Iranian national pride — the Paykan automobile — to advocate for human rights in Iran. The car used was once gifted by Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran to the Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu, and was purchased at an auction to serve as the canvas for artwork by Iranian artists in exile. Each year, PaykanArtCar commissions an exceptional Iranian artist-in-exile to use the car to capture the Iranian struggle for human dignity and basic freedoms. The inaugural PaykanArtCar was designed by Alireza Shojaian and features a historic Persian design with a provocative message about the brutality and ruthlessness faced by the marginalized and oppressed LGBTQ+ community inside Iran. The PaykanArtCar represents brave, creative dissent against the human rights abuses of Iran’s theocratic dictatorial regime. The PaykanArtCar will travel to Norway to be present at the Oslo Freedom Forum as part of Human Rights Foundation’s Art in Protest exhibit and will be parked at the event venue. The second edition of PaykanArtCar will be painted by a female Iranian artist and will advocate for women’s rights in Iran.

Marina Ovsyannikova is a Ukrainian-born Russian journalist and activist, who staged a live protest against the war in Ukraine during a news broadcast of Russian state TV. Ovsyannikova was a longtime editor at Russia’s Channel One, where her job was to assist those engaged in disinformation to be distributed to the Russian people. After thinking through ways in which she could protest, she chose to interrupt a live broadcast, holding a sign calling for “no war.” Following her demonstration on live TV and a subsequent anti-war video, Ovsyannikova was held overnight in a police station, denied access to a lawyer, and ultimately fined 30,000 roubles — she disappeared without contact for more than 12 hours. The Kremlin denounced her protest as “hooliganism,” and Ovsyannikova faces up to 15 years in prison under Russia’s disinformation laws. In a recent article, she expressed profound regret for her years as a participant in “the Russian propaganda machine” where her job was to create “aggressive Kremlin propaganda – propaganda that constantly sought to deflect attention from the truth, and to blur all moral standards,” she says: “I cannot undo what I have done. I can only do everything I possibly can to help destroy this machine and end this war.”

For more on the Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/438F3F5D-2CC8-914C-E104-CE20A25F0726

Human Rights Defender Vladimir Kara-Murza arrested in Russia

April 14, 2022

Vladimir Kara-Murza, the Russian democracy activist, historian, twice-poisoned critic of Vladimir Putin’s regime, and a senior advisor to Human Rights First, was reportedly arrested near his Moscow residence on 11 April 2022.  Kara-Murza’s arrest came just days after his return to Russia and shortly after CNN broadcasted an interview with him. He is the winner of 3 human rights awards, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/34e43b60-3236-11ea-b4d5-37ffeeddd006

We are deeply concerned for our friend Vladimir Kara-Murza’s personal safety, and we call on Russian authorities to release him immediately,” said Michael Breen, President and CEO of Human Rights First.  “Putin and his regime have shown themselves to be willing to break any law, domestic or international, to suppress political opposition at home and subjugate neighboring countries like Ukraine.  We call on all of democracy’s allies to oppose criminal behavior like this to protect human rights in Russia, Ukraine, and around the world.

Having been targeted for assassination twice before, Kara-Murza knew his return to Russia put him in danger.  In his recent CNN interview, Kara-Murza said, “The biggest gift we could give…to the Kremlin would be just to give up and run…that’s all they want from us.

https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/russian-human-rights-activist-vladimir-kara-murza-arrested-moscow

Justin Bieber urged to cancel performance in Saudi Arabia

November 11, 2021

On December 5, 2021, Canadian pop star Justin Bieber is scheduled to perform at the Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021, a state-sponsored music festival funded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) has contacted Mr. Bieber and his team, urging him to cancel his performance and refuse the Kingdom’s efforts to whitewash its appalling human rights record. Instead, HRF has asked him to use his global influence to issue a statement in support of human rights in Saudi Arabia, just as his colleague Nicki Minaj did when she cancelled her 2019 performance in Saudi Arabia, following a letter from HRF.

It would be disastrous for Justin Bieber, an artist with a vast global following, and who is idolized by millions, to be used as a pawn by MBS’ murderous regime,” said HRF President Céline Assaf-Boustani. “Instead of giving into MBS’ plot to launder his image, as other artists have done since MBS’ ascent to power, Mr. Bieber should follow the lead of his fellow artist Nicki Minaj, who boldly shut down MBS and refused to perform for him.”

Saudi Arabia is not a democracy. It is an absolute monarchy whose de facto dictator, MBS, brutally silences anyone who dares to criticize his policies or calls for reform. Since the beginning of his rule in 2017, MBS has spearheaded a brutal crackdown on dissidents, many of whom have been harassed, arbitrarily detained, sentenced, and tortured to death. Among the groups that his crackdown has targeted are women, who are treated like second-class citizens, the LGBTQ+ community, and other minority groups.

Should he follow through with the performance, Mr. Bieber, who has shown support for the LGBTQ+ community throughout his career, will be profiting off a regime that executes LGBTQ+ individuals for the “crime” of being who they are. In April 2019, for example, five gay men were beheaded after they confessed to crimes under torture. Mr. Bieber has also supported the Black Lives Matter movement and the advancement of civil rights and social justice in the United States, indicating that he wants to use his artistic gifts to “serve this planet and each other,” and to help those who feel helpless in the face of “suffering, injustice, and pain.” 

As someone who has articulated a commitment to civil rights and social justice, Mr. Bieber should stay true to his words and use his platform to raise awareness about the atrocities being perpetrated every day in Saudi Arabia, especially against members of the LGBTQ+ community,” added Assaf-Boustani. “This performance would stand in stark contrast to the core values he claims to subscribe to. Music is not just a business, but also an influential art form that should not be purchased by a brutal dictatorship.”

The Formula 1 event at which Justin Bieber is scheduled to perform, is one of many events that is integral to the Saudi regime’s “Vision 2030” plan. Vision 2030 is a massive undertaking designed to project an image of modernism and prosperity to the rest of the world, and a critical component of it includes the funding of sporting and entertainment industries. This plan, along with a major public relations campaign abroad, has the clear intention of whitewashing the crimes of MBS’ dictatorship, and preventing any form of democratic reforms from taking hold in the country. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/01/25/cristiano-ronaldo-and-lionel-messi-resist-big-money-to-advertise-for-saudi-arabia/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/05/12/more-sports-washing-with-anthony-joshua-and-tyson-fury-clash-set-for-saudi-arabia-in-august/

HRF also sent letters to A$AP Rocky, David Guetta, Tiësto, Jason Derulo, and Mohamed Hamaki regarding their participation in the event.

Read HRF’s letter to Justin Bieber

https://mailchi.mp/hrf.org/hrf-to-justin-bieber-cancel-performance-in-saudi-arabia?e=f80cec329e

“In Pursuit of Freedom,” digital art exhibit featuring 15 protest movements

January 18, 2021

On 13 January 2021) the Human Rights Foundation announced the opening of “In Pursuit of Freedom,” a digital art exhibit featuring 15 protest movements from around the globe. Street protests were a defining feature of recent civil and political resistance despite the spread of the novel coronavirus worldwide. Authoritarian regimes were exposed for using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse for repression, stricter restrictions, and power grabs instead of protecting their citizens’ lives. Nevertheless, people took the streets to make their voices heard, and as they adapted to champion social and political change in the face of the outbreak, art was a vigorous medium of protest and creative expression to expose the deception of tyranny. “In Pursuit of Freedom: A Year in Global Protest Art” showcases moving examples of protest art from 15 countries across regions, and attests to how art can be a powerful tool for activism and protest. From Belarus to Hong Kong, visit the exhibit to see striking works of protest art by artists who committed their talent in 2020 to push for change across 15 countries ruled by authoritarian regimes.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/24/lebanon-human-rights-defenders-use-graffiti-to-express-hope/

Explore the exhibit

Film The Dissident – about Khashoggi’s murder – soon available for streaming

December 10, 2020

On 9 December 2020) the NEW-York based Human Rights Foundation announced that THE DISSIDENT, a new feature film directed by Academy Award-winning director Bryan Fogel and produced by the Human Rights Foundation (HRF), will arrive on streaming platforms for viewers to rent or own beginning 8 January, 2021. Briarcliff Entertainment, the film’s distribution partner, has also announced a limited national theatrical release on Friday, December 25.

The film exposes the labyrinth of deceit behind the high-profile October 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Featuring never before seen surveillance footage and unprecedented access to a wealth of other damning information previously unavailable to the public, the film weaves together a story of courage, money, power, tyranny, love, and technology run amok. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/jamal-khashoggi/

THE DISSIDENT is a chilling illustration of what results from unchecked power,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. “It shines a powerful light on the darkness of authoritarianism. Dictatorships are undone by public exposure and we are committed to taking this story across the world, enlisting the partnership of the general public and civil society across the political and ideological spectrum to hold MBS and his henchmen accountable.

https://mailchi.mp/hrf.org/the-dissident-release-december-25?e=f80cec329e

The Human Rights Foundation announces three recipients of the 2020 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent. 

September 18, 2020

On 17 September 2020 the Human Rights Foundation announced the three recipients of the 2020 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent. 

The 2020 Havel laureates are Chinese visual artist Badiucao, Saudi political satirist Omar Abdulaziz, and the late Rwandan gospel musician and peace and reconciliation activist Kizito Mihigo, who is the first posthumous recipient since the inception of the prize in 2012. This year’s laureates will receive their awards at 11:45 a.m. EDT on Friday, 25 September, during the 2020 Oslo Freedom Forum.

Badiucao is an exiled Chinese dissident artist based in Australia. His political artwork has unmasked the lies of the Chinese regime, raised awareness for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, and exposed the Chinese Communist Party’s censorship of the coronavirus pandemic. Badiucao is the creator of the Lennon Flag, which became a powerful protest symbol that inspired and mobilized the global community to stand in solidarity with Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. The Chinese regime has tried to silence Badiucao by intimidating his family in China.

Omar Abdulaziz is an exiled Saudi political satirist and activist based in Canada. His satirical news show on YouTube has uncovered the lies of the Saudi regime. His activism has raised awareness about ongoing repression and human rights abuses in the kingdom, where freedom of expression is nonexistent and political satire is a crime. The Saudi regime has tried to silence his activism by intimidating his family, offering bribes, and making him a target of surveillance.

Kizito Mihigo was a Rwandan catholic gospel singer, songwriter, organist, and the founder of the Kizito Mihigo Peace Foundation, which promoted peace, reconciliation, and nonviolence in schools and prisons through concerts, plays, and poetry. An ethnic Tutsi, he showed tremendous courage in a 2014 song in which he called for compassion for all civilians killed by Paul Kagame’s Tutsi-dominated ruling Rwandan Patriotric Front forces after Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. The regime quickly banned the song as it contradicted its official narrative, which presents ethnic Tutsis as the sole victims of Rwanda’s tragedy. Mihigo released the song with full knowledge that it would lead to terrible consequences. “The message is sometimes more important than the messenger,” he said. He was detained in order to be paraded as a conspirator in a violent anti-government plot and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was released on pardon after serving three years, but he was arrested again while attempting to leave the country and died in police custody in February 2020. The regime claimed it was a suicide, but Mihigo told friends weeks before his death that he had been under government harassment and pressure to provide false testimony against political opponents.

For more information on the award: https://thedigestapp-public.trueheroesfilms.org/award/438F3F5D-2CC8-914C-E104-CE20A25F0726

for last year, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/27/anti-junta-rap-group-awarded-the-vaclav-havel-prize-for-creative-dissent/

https://mailchi.mp/5abc37c73aa7/2020-oslo-freedom-forum-program-details-sep-24-287847?e=f80cec329e

Oslo Freedom Forum 24-25 September goes on-line

August 17, 2020

For the first time, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is bringing its Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) online. “While the circumstances may keep us apart, our commitment to supporting activists in their struggle against authoritarian regimes is stronger than ever. Join us online from September 24-25 for the only virtual conference that puts human rights at the top of the global agenda. The political and health crises of the past six months have reminded us how authoritarians use human tragedy to advance their own agendas. Corrupt regimes around the world have exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to impose restrictions on freedom of speech, to arrest peaceful protesters, and to silence dissent. The courage and determination of activists and citizens alike have been tested, yet they remain resilient in the face of tyranny.”

Confirmed speakers for the 2020 Oslo Freedom Forum include:

  • Taiwan’s Digital Minister Audrey Tang
  • Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey
  • Uyghur journalist Gulchehra Hoja
  • Thai opposition leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit
  • Gambian anti-rape activist and survivor Fatou Toufah Jallow
  • Exiled Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Nathan Law
  • North Korean defector Eunhee Park
  • Sudanese doctor and pro-democracy activist Mohamed Nagi Alassam
  • Russian investigative journalist Lyudmila Savchuk
  • Cuban environmentalist and LGBTQ+ rights activist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola
  • “Who Owns Huawei?” author and professor Christopher Balding
  • Oscar-winning film director Bryan Fogel

More speakers to be announced soon.  

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/21/human-rights-foundation-uses-2019-oslo-freedom-forum-for-rebranding/

Oslo Freedom Forum

 

Posdcast with Ketty Nivyabandi, poet & woman human rights defender from Burundi

July 20, 2020

Ketty Nivyabandi is a Burundian activist and poet who led the first women-only demonstrations against Burundi’s president in 2015. She defied police beatings, tear gas, and a water cannon to make women’s voices heard.

In this podcast THE HUMAN RIGHTS FOUNDATION dives into Burundi’s authoritarian regime and Ketty’s resistance to Burundi’s dictatorship. What role can women play in protesting and organizing? How do you survive police brutality? How can people remain hopeful and support protestors in Burundi?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfJuctTwAuA&feature=youtu.be