Front Line Defenders has learned with great sadness of the death of human rights defender Rafiq Hajat, who passed on 13 September 2021 of a heart attack. Despite the personal risks, Rafiq Hajat dedicated 20 years of his life to peacefully defending human rights in Malawi.
Some years ago I was introduced to the text “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to 3rd World Women Writers”1 by Glória Anzaldua. In it, she encourages women's writing. The Chicana, feminist and lesbian scholar on cultural theory calls on women from the so-called ‘third world’ to write. She recognizes writing as a form of creation. Of survival.
In recent weeks – that have been dominated by challenging and difficult news – it has been great to see Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason take up Ireland’s seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC), and for her to be already promoting an agenda around women, peace and security.
Ireland starts its two-year term at a time when the international rules-based system has never been under greater threat.
On 10 September 2020, Yury Korzun, a miner from Belarusian city of Salihorsk chained himself to a piece of equipment 300 meters below the surface. Belarusians commented it happened because “another person has handcuffed himself to the presidential chair”.
Atziri Elizabeth Ávila López is a woman human rights defender and journalist from Oaxaca, Mexico working with Observatorio Ciudadano Nacional del Feminicidio (OCNF) (The National Citizen’s Observatory on Femicide), a citizen’s network made up of 43 organisations. The work of OCNF is aimed at contributing to the guaranteed rights of women to a life free of violence. As well as her work with OCNF, Atziri is also a member of the Advisory Council of the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in Mexico.
In mid-February 2020, as the coronavirus outbreak led to cities and counties across China imposing strict lockdown, a mother surnamed Wang and her two young children, with luggage in tow, walked for almost five hours in an attempt to return to their hometown in a neighbouring county after she was beaten by her abusive ex-husband.
With at least ten rural workers and leaders killed in 2019 and increased violence against human rights defenders, fuelled by hate speech from the highest levels, there seems to be little to celebrate in the State of Para on Human Rights Day 2019. This 9 December, Front Line Defenders Protection Coordinator, Ivi Oliveira, accompanied one of our partners in Brazil at the reception ceremony of the Medal Paulo Frota by the Legislative Assembly of Para (ALEPA), which recognised individuals and organisations for their work in defence of human rights in the state.
In the coming weeks, Pablo López Alavéz, an activist from a tiny village in southern Mexico, will learn his fate. The decision from a federal court may affect the fate of a part of the forest in the mountains of Oaxaca that he calls home. And some people hope it will also affect the future of land and environment defenders across Mexico.
“If you drive 40 miles inland from Recife you go back in time 150 years.” Those were the words of a human rights defender from the Pastoral Land Commission in Pernambuco, Brazil, as he tried to explain the lawless brutality with which landowners managed their sugar cane plantations. The reach of the state is weak and the level of corruption and abuse of power is high.