In October last year, I had the privilege of meeting Damian Gallardo for the first time. It is a name I heard many times since 2013, when he was arrested in the middle of the night in his home in Oaxaca; since then Front Line Defenders – with many others – supported him and his family and campaigned for his release. I met him in what had been his home for five years, a high security prison outside Guadalajara, in the state of Jalisco.
The announcement of the ceasefire between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP is a historic moment that we hope will mark a turning point in the history of Colombia. It offers the Colombian people an opportunity to make a break with the endemic violence of the past. The direct reference to the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs) in the peace agreement is one more reason to celebrate.
According to the Brazilian Committee of Human Rights Defenders, at least 24 human rights defenders (HRDs) have been killed in the first four months of 2016. This places Brazil at the top of the list of killings of HRDs reported to Front Line Defenders this year.
Last week the government and people of Eritrea celebrated 25 years since independence. No one can deny the courage, resilience and sacrifice of those Eritreans who fought for the independence of their country, yet sadly this very fact prompts the question as to what exactly there is to celebrate 25 years on.
Abdulhadi is two years old and is currently being held with his mother, Zainab Al-Khawaja, in Bahrain's Isa Town Women's Detention Centre. Zainab is one of the best known human rights defenders in Bahrain. She faces three years and one month in prison on several charges, including "destroying public property", for exercising her right to free expression by tearing up pictures of King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa.
On 27 September China will co-host with UN Women a “Global Leader's Meeting on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment” in New York. Chinese President Xi Jinping will address the gathering, as will Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon. The event will mark 20 years since the Beijing Declaration and is intended to place 'gender equality, women's rights and women's empowerment at the centre of the global agenda'.
When I arrived at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW) in Beijing, Chinese authorities welcomed hundreds of foreign dignitaries and international rights groups with rainbow coloured scarves. Yet, while China hosted what would come to be known as the pre-eminent gathering on gender equality for the next twenty years, the government was also systematically disempowering Tibetan women through its repressive policies towards the Tibetan Autonomous Region.