The Oslo Freedom Forum 2016, a stance against dictatorships

    The Oslo Freedom Forum 2016, a stance against dictatorships

    May 25, Oslo: The three day Oslo Freedom has concluded in Oslo on, Wednesday. This edition of the international annual forum brought together over 200 Human Rights advocates in an effort to promote human rights across the globe.

    "A single spark can start a raging fire, which is why this year, the Oslo Freedom Forum is dedicated to catalysts: women and men who have realized that while individuals can’t change the world on their own, the world can’t change without individuals. That even if you are the first person to stand up, you won’t find yourself standing alone for long," the forum organizers stated.The Three day event, which began on Monday with a panel discussion on Free Speech, titled-'Free Speech unlimited', which was presented by John Templeton Foundation and  moderated by: Bobby Ghosh, Javier El-Hage, Reem Khalifa, Maina Kiai and Frederick Schauer.

    This was followed by a discussion on Investing in Human Rights, with Kim Motley,Mariama Camara,Trevor Cornwell, Leonora Jiménez,Joyce Lanigan. Later that day various issues were also discussed including-The Future of Video Advocacy, Media in Europe: Still an artillery for freedom and Women and the Law.

    On the second day of the forum the activists came together  to listen to experiences of the speakers at the forum. The day which had begun with the opening remarks by the Founder of the Forum Thor Halvorssen and the State Secretary of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry Tore Hattrem, went on to feature the following speakers who spoke about the problems they face while advocating for right in their respective nations:

    • Abdalaziz Alhamza,Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently
    • Roya Mahboob,How Afghan Women are Coding for Tomorrow
    • Wole Soyinka,How Corruption Created Boko Haram
    • Aminatou Haidar,Whitewashing Western Sahara's Struggle for Freedom
    • Shui-Meng Ng,Laos: Where Dissidents Disappear
    • Thulani Maseko,Using the Law to Defeat a King
    • Rosa María Payá,Let Cuba Decide
    • Bjørn Ihler,What Surviving a Terrorist Attack Taught Me
    • Maajid Nawaz,The Global Jihadist Insurgency
    • Rachana Sunar,Girls, Not Wives
    • Nada Dhaif,Treating the Invisible Wounds of Torture
    • Henrik Mestad,
    • A Monologue by Elie Wiesel,The Unsilenced 
    • Danilo "El Sexto" Maldonado Machado,Orwell, Spray Paint, and the Fight to Free Cuba
    • Emin Milli,Independent Media is the Answer
    • Anjan Sundaram,Detecting a Dictatorship
    • Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoyg, Bearing Witness: Through the Lens
    Meanwhile, the final day of the three day gathering began with a musical performance by the Swedish singer-songwriter José González who opened,  the award ceremony for the fifth annual Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent. The Havel Prize was founded in 2012 with the support and encouragement of Dagmar Havlová, the widow of the late Czech poet, playwright, dissident, and statesman to honor and celebrate those who, with bravery and ingenuity, to  unmask the lie of dictatorship by living in truth. This year the award was given to Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani, Russian performance artist Petr Pavlensky, and Uzbek photojournalist Umida Akhmedova. After the award ceremony discussion and talks on issues relating to Media Freedom, LGBT discrimination in Egypt, the importance of grassroots legal advocacy, Congo’s war on women, and the movement to free North Korea with flash drives, took place.

    The Speakers:

    This edition of the Oslo Freedom Forum also featured 81 inspirational speakers from around the world,here are the Top Ten of our favourite Speakers at this year's freedom forum:

    1. Tore Hatterem: 
    Tore Hattrem is the State Secretary at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His main areas of responsibility include security policy, the High North, matters relating to the U.S., Russia, Eurasia, and Canada, humanitarian affairs, and human rights. Hattrem has been with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1992, most recently working as Director General of the Department for Regional Affairs. He served as Norway’s ambassador to Afghanistan and to Sri Lanka and served as Adviser in the UN Security Council Unit from 2000 to 2002. He was previously posted to the Permanent Mission of Norway to the UN and the WTO in Geneva.

    2. Omar Sharif Jr:

    Omar Sharif Jr., the grandson of film star Omar Sharif, is an Egyptian actor, model, and LGBT rights activist. In 2013, Sharif revealed he was gay and also half-Jewish, which led to his decision to leave Egypt for the United States. Sharif’s passport was revoked under the Morsi regime and the Sisi government’s increased crackdown on gay Egyptians has made it impossible for Sharif to return in the near future. After coming out, Sharif began working with GLAAD (the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and served as the organization’s Eastern National Spokesperson for two years, speaking out on behalf of those who are silenced in Egypt and elsewhere. His activism has also focused on the use of culture and media to promote free and open societies in the Middle East.

    3. Tomáš Kubínek: 
    Tomáš Kubínek is a Czech-born Canadian theater performer based in the United States. After his family escaped the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, Kubínek grew up in Canada, where he became fascinated with the performing arts. Today, he tours internationally as a solo artist and has been presented in more than 30 countries, appearing at theaters, opera houses, international festivals of theatre and humor, in television specials, and on Broadway. In addition to his solo tours, Kubínek also teaches master classes to theater students, facilitates outreach programs for incarcerated youth and adults, and appears as a guest artist with symphony orchestras.

    4. Rosa Maria Paya:

    Rosa María Payá, daughter of the deceased democracy activist Oswaldo Payá, is one of Cuba’s most vocal political dissidents. Payá serves as the president of the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy, and is a member of the Cuba Decides campaign. In April 2014, Payá was detained in Panama before the Summit of the Americas in what has been criticized as a move of political intimidation. Since her father’s passing in a mysterious car accident in 2012, Payá has repeatedly called for a formal investigation into his death, speaking around the world on his behalf and addressing a public letter to President Obama following the change in U.S. policy toward Cuba in 2014.

    5. Shui-Meng Ng: 
    Shui-Meng Ng is the wife of disappeared Laotian activist Sombath Somphone, who has not been seen since he was kidnapped in December 2012. Ng, who is originally from Singapore, has CCTV video footage of the government agents taking her husband in front of a police post, but officials refuse to admit any complicity. Sombath is an internationally acclaimed community organizer and civil society leader in Laos. Since his arrest, Ng has campaigned around the world for her husband’s release. Laos has been a communist one-party dictatorship since 1975, and is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Freedom House ranks the country as one of the “worst of the worst” in terms of fundamental freedoms.

    6. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy :

    Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is a Pakistani journalist and filmmaker whose documentaries focus on women, children, and other marginalized communities. Obaid-Chinoy has gained immense international acclaim for her work, winning Academy Awards for her documentaries Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015). Though she frequently explores issues afflicting Pakistan, particularly the Taliban and their recruitment of child soldiers, Obaid-Chinoy has worked with refugees all around the world. In 2012, she was included in TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list and received the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award at Davos in 2013.

    7. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova:
    Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is a Russian political activist and member of the punk rock collective Pussy Riot. Tolokonnikovia began her activism as part of the art collective Voina, which staged artistic acts protesting Putin’s government. As part of Pussy Riot, she took part in an impromptu performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, for which she was convicted of “hooliganism.” Tolokonnikovia served 21 months in a Russian prison camp before her release in December 2013. She recently launched a new project with bandmate Maria Alyokhina that focuses on the rights of Russian prisoners. She continues to take part in protests, and has been arrested and beaten for her activism since her release from jail.

    8. Rachna Sunar:
    Rachana Sunar is a Nepalese women’s rights activist and founder of the Sambad Center. The Sambad Center, created in 2013 with support from Kirdac Nepal and the Stromme Foundation, aims to educate young married mothers on issues such as women’s rights, child marriage, and human trafficking. At 15 years old, Sunar was intended to become a child bride to an older man of a higher caste, but tricked her family into delaying the marriage and allowing her to stay school. Sunar began sharing her story with other Nepalese women and now helps lead the fight to end child marriage in Nepal. She has saved 37 girls from forced marriage and provides literacy lessons for adults in addition to her work at the Sambad Center.

    9. Dr. Denis Mukwege:

    Dr. Denis Mukwege is a Congolese gynecologist and the founder and medical director of Panzi Hospital, a treatment center for women who have suffered sexual violence during war. Founded in 1999, Panzi Hospital has served more than 30,000 survivors of sexual violence by providing medical care, as well as legal and psychosocial services for its patients. Dr. Mukwege has become the world’s leading expert on medical treatment for gang rape victims. In 2012, he spoke before the United Nations to condemn impunity for mass rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Dr. Mukwege was awarded the Sakharov Prize for the Freedom of Thought in 2014, and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times.

    10. Roya Mahboob:
    Roya Mahboob is an Afghan tech entrepreneur and founder of Citadel Software, a software development company based in Herat. In addition to being one of Afghanistan's first female tech CEOs, Mahboob founded the Digital Citizen Fund, a nonprofit that aims to increase women’s technological literacy and provide employment and educational opportunities for girls in Afghanistan. Mahboob was named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2013 for her innovative initiatives to expand computer education. She has created nine IT centers for girls in high schools across Afghanistan and plans to expand her programs to 40 schools, ultimately reaching more than 160,000 female students. Mahboob has also taken her model beyond Afghanistan to schools in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Nepal. After facing death threats from the Taliban and others for her work, Mahboob left the country in 2013 and spent two years working remotely before returning to Afghanistan in 2016.

    All Rights Reserved with The Oslo Times


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