Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights Foundation’

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

Oslo Freedom Forum 2022 starts on 23 May

May 22, 2022

Every year, champions of human rights bring their stories to the Oslo Freedom Forum to shed light on the struggle for freedom around the world.

The theme for the 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum, CHAMPION OF CHANGE, celebrates both activists, who are themselves champions, and their causes. This theme represents a strong, scalable call to action, inviting you to act and advocate on behalf of activists and in support of human rights. At the Oslo Freedom Forum, we realize that everyone has the potential to effect change — either as a champion on an individual level, or as part of a larger movement.

The 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum, is from May 23-25 in Oslo at the Oslo Konserthus. You can also follow it as a stream: https://oslofreedomforum.com/?mc_cid=17de5f8b1f&mc_eid=f80cec329e

The 2022 mainstage program includes keynote speakers, who will be shedding light on the struggle for freedom around the world, including:

  • The three women who are leading the democratic movement in Belarus: Maria KolesnikovaSviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, and Veronica Tsepkalo, first stood on stage together in 2020 in Belarus, when Aleksandr Lukashenko brazenly stole the country’s elections. They will reunite with us, to provide an update on the Belarusian people’s remarkable multi-year protest, and explain how we can help.
  • Carine Kanimba, daughter of imprisoned “Hotel Rwanda” hero — who saved more than a thousand people during the Rwandan genocide — will share her extremely risky quest to liberate her father, who was was kidnapped by the state in 2020, and is now serving a life sentence in prison for criticizing the Kagame regime. Despite being wiretapped and targeted by Pegasus spyware, Carine continues to speak out to bring justice to her father.
  • At the young age of 26, Zarifa Ghafari became the unlikely mayor of Maidan Shar, a town in Afghanistan filled with Taliban support. Hatred toward her as a woman leader led to the assassination of her father in 2020. Last summer, with her life at risk after the fall of Kabul, she made a daring escape in the footwell of a car, evading Taliban fighters. Today she lives in exile, where she continues to advocate for human rights in Afghanistan, committed to the cause of freedom in her country. 
  • Jewher Ilham’s father, Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, has been held under a life sentence since 2014, imprisoned in a concentration camp in China’s Xinjiang region. Jewher has been speaking truth to power, shedding light on China’s forced labor police by testifying before US Congress, publishing op-eds, receiving numerous international awards on behalf of her father, and writing two books on the subject. 
  • In 2012, Syrian activist and Georgetown student Omar Alshogre was detained along with his cousin for demonstrating against the Syrian regime. He spent more than three years in Assad’s infamous jail system, where he endured and survived unspeakable torture. At the age of 20, his mother helped smuggle him out to freedom. His story is a bedrock piece of evidence in the international case to hold the Assad regime accountable for crimes against humanity.
  • One of the 100 most influential women defining the last century according to TIME Magazine, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman, also known as the “mother of the revolution,” “the iron woman,” “Lady of the Arab Spring,” as well as one of the Most Rebellious Women in History, is a notoriously true powerhouse. She is a human rights activist, journalist, politician, and founder of her own international foundation.

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

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

Impressive list of speakers at Oslo Freedom Forum 23-25 May 2022

March 10, 2022

Every year, human rights defenders bring their stories to the Oslo Freedom Forum stage to shed light on the struggle for freedom around the world.

The 2022 theme, CHAMPION OF CHANGE, captures the idea that celebrates both activists – who are themselves champions – and their causes, to promote positive change.

At the Oslo Konserthus, you’ll listen to talks that will expose you to a breadth of human rights issues, pro-democracy causes, and inspiring stories of nobility and triumph against monumental odds.

OFF 2022 Speakers

Areej al-Sadhan Activist & Sister of Jailed Saudi Dissident and Humanitarian Worker Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan

Bektour Iskender Kyrgyz Journalist & Free Speech Activist

Chemi Lhamo Tibetan Activist & Community Organizer

Roman Dobrokhotov Russian Investigative Journalist

Carine Kanimba Daughter of Imprisoned “Hotel Rwanda” Hero Paul Rusesabagina

Matthew Caruana Galizia Director of the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation

see https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/840cf16d-c095-4033-b931-c1533f87e665

Zarifa Ghafari Exiled Afghan Activist & Politician [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/154a0717-54d4-448c-8055-cbb2bb7b7a85]

Omar Alshogre Director of Detainee Affairs at the Syrian Emergency Task Force

Agnès Callamard Secretary General of Amnesty International

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/03/30/new-sg-for-amnesty-international-agnes-callamard/

Filmon Debru Eritrean Human Trafficking Survivor

Glacier Kwong Hong Kong Political & Digital Rights Activist

More details about the speakers on https://oslofreedomforum.com/oslo-freedom-forum-2022/?mc_cid=a33c5d0c01&mc_eid=f80cec329e#2022speakers

Some rich and famous people favour money over rights

January 24, 2022

Tara Everton and Jenny Wang posted in the human Rights Foundation a diatribe “Ignorance and Reluctance of the Rich and the Famous” which is well worth reading in full:

In a recent episode of the podcast “All-In,” Chamath Palihapitiya, billionaire venture capitalist, stakeholder of the Golden State Warriors, and Chairman of Virgin Galactic, commented that “nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs… Of all the things that I care about, it is below my line.” 

Palihapitiya has joined the growing list of wealthy Western elites, including Elon Musk, Ray Dalio, Craig Smith, and more, who have openly turned a blind eye to the suffering of millions of people living under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s repression. 

The reason for doing so is simple: to remain in the good graces of the CCP to line their own pockets.

The world is witnessing the Chinese government’s belligerence and disregard for human dignity. In the past several decades, China’s authoritarian regime has tightened its grip on power by conducting mass crackdowns on Chinese human rights defenders, spearheading an unprecedented 21st century genocide against the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, and implementing incessant policing in Tibet and Hong Kong. Despite the regime’s ongoing abysmal human rights record, highly influential entrepreneurs, business tycoons, and elites have all too willingly stayed silent.

Greed and lust for access to the Chinese market have made profit-driven elites eager to acquiesce to the CCP’s authoritarian ideals. When these figures harbor these types of views – and express them so casually on prominent platforms – human rights are in grave danger. 

The blatant ignorance of Western elites and billionaires is stunning. For example, founder of Tesla, Elon Musk, brazenly disregarded the testimonies and evidence coming out of Xinjiang about the genocide, and recently opened a Tesla showroom in the region. Similarly, Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, has shamelessly fawned over the Chinese government’s mass crackdowns toward achieving “common prosperity,” and even claimed that the United States should follow suit — a stance that has garnered him praise from Chinese state media. Most recently, Craig Smith, CEO of Burton Snowboards’ China subsidiary, showed concerning indifference to the Uyghur genocide by stating that he has no problem doing business in Xinjiang  — even after sharing that he is well-aware of the reports about genocide.

Palihapitiya’s recent brazen remarks are just one example out of far too many. 

Palihapitiya and his fellow tycoons are trained in social combat. Palihapitiya, in response to the resulting backlash, “recognized” he came across “lacking empathy,” citing his personal experience as a refugee and concern for all human rights. The Golden State Warriors subsequently tried to publicly distance themselves from Palihapitiya – while still dancing around using direct verbiage about China and the Uyghur genocide. All too similarly, Dalio took to social media soon after his fumble to admit he “answered sloppily” to questions about China. Elites are quick to undergo damage control – yet the real damage has already been done.

With the power of celebrity and money comes responsibility. Businessmen and elites could undoubtedly make a dent in the CCP’s growing control just as corporate divestment campaigns did to help bring an end to apartheid in South Africa. These individuals can speak up, but egregiously, they are reluctant and choose not to. Driven instead by financial gain, they uncritically whitewash the Chinese regime’s abuses and in turn, act as agents of influence for Xi Jinping. 

They choose money over morals. However, you do not have to – and you should not. Connect with your government officials. Policymakers and legislators need to engage with civil society groups and independent experts to ensure their foreign policies and economic negotiations are not complicit to the Chinese government’s crimes. Call your elected officials to stress their moral and legal obligation to respect, protect, and fulfil fundamental human rights. Shop responsibly. There’s a 1 in 5 chance that your clothes are linked to Uyghur forced labor. Consider supporting brands that have publicly committed to ending such forced labor, and urge your favorite brands to disclose not only how products are made but also who makes them. Support activists. The CCP actively intimidates and pressures brave individuals outside of China who stand up for human rights. Follow them on social media, donate to their campaigns, and support organizations that provide platforms for their activism. 
Human rights are not a “luxury belief,” and complicity is not “below [your] line.” As a concerned global citizen, do what you can to stand up to the Chinese regime. We can do better than the billionaires. Full stop.

That it can be done differently is shown inter alia by: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/02/08/celebrities-who-risked-their-careers-for-human-rights-you-always-have-a-choice/

https://mailchi.mp/hrf.org/the-ignorance-and-reluctance-of-the-rich-and-the-famous?e=f80cec329e

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