Brave women under fire

They are women young and old. Farmers, factory workers, teachers, tailors. They have regular jobs, high-powered jobs, cash-in-hand jobs, no jobs. Their identities are manifold and for many, the barriers even greater because of that. Still, they speak up and stand out.  

Where they see wrong, they can’t help but want to make things right. Where they see unfairness, they want to make things equal. They’ve said #MeToo and called #TimesUp on violence and abuse against women. They act for social good, so that people can work without being assaulted, communities are free from racism, corruption is weeded out, lands are protected from pollution. They face danger, so we don’t have to. 

Yet some government leaders vilify them. They cut funding to birth control clinics. Degrade women publicly. Promote profit over the environment. Target communities of colour. Roll back LGBTI rights. Where women defy the status quo they are increasingly abused – called whores and witches, terrorists and anti-nationalists. In this landscape poisoned by macho politics, women who resist are threatened, assaulted, raped, even killed.  

But like a tide, these women still rise. They dare to have a voice and they use it. People call them brave. They say they’re doing what anyone would in their place. That they’re no different from the rest of us.  

They’re right. These brave women are among us and are a part ofus. Now, we must join them to stamp out the fire that’s torching our hard-won rights. Now we, too, must be brave, and take a stand to defend the women who defend our rights.

Help protect these Brave women today

MY MOTHER DESERVES JUSTICE AND IT’S IMPERATIVE WE SHED LIGHT ON THE CONSPIRACY THAT TOOK PLACE. IT’S FUNDAMENTAL IF WE ARE TO PREVENT FURTHER KILLINGS.

Bertha Zuñiga

BRAVE IS AN ORDINARY PERSON WITH A HEART


SMEARS, SURVEILLANCE AND SILENCING DISSENT

People who speak out against injustice are under attack. Governments, companies, armed groups, groups advocating hate and discrimination and others in power are doing all they can to shut them up and close their work down.

They portray those who challenge them as criminals, terrorists, unpatriotic, corrupt or even “foreign agents”. Then the attack goes further – smearing reputations, locking people up and even using violence to silence dissent.

People in power portray those who challenge them as criminals, terrorists or even ‘foreign agents’. 

At the same time, unions are disbanded and newspapers are closed down. Social media is banned. Digital activity is unlawfully monitored. And peaceful protestors are met with violence. Speaking out for human rights has become difficult and dangerous.

But that’s why we need human rights defenders more than ever. They’re brave enough to speak up for free speech. Challenge racism and sexism. Condemn torture. And ultimately hold our leaders to account. 

I AM ALWAYS THINKING ABOUT BEING KILLED OR KIDNAPPED. BUT I REFUSE TO GO INTO EXILE. I AM A HUMAN RIGHTS FIGHTER AND I WILL NOT GIVE UP THIS FIGHT.

Berta Cáceres, a human rights defender who was shot dead in Honduras in 2016.

BRAVE: In pictures
Máxima Acuña, a peasant farmer in northern Peru, has braved violent attacks from police for refusing to leave the land where she lives. She had the courage to stand up for her community and confront one of the world’s biggest mining companies.
Amnesty International
Narges Mohammadi has braved constant harassment and intimidation in Iran, and is now serving 22 years in prison – just for standing up against the death penalty and fighting for the rights of others.
Amnesty International
Edward Snowden faces 30 years in prison in the USA after sharing documents which revealed the extent of unlawful mass surveillance. His courage means we all now know the truth.
Amnesty International
In Myanmar, student activist Phyoe Phyoe Aung was beaten by police and imprisoned after leading peaceful marches against a new law which she believed restricted academic freedom.
Private
Itai Dzamara, a journalist and pro-democracy activist in Zimbabwe, was abducted in March 2015 after calling for mass action to tackle deteriorating economic conditions in the country. His fate and whereabouts remain unknown.
Amnesty International
Ales Bialiatski was the chair of a human rights organisation in Belarus which provided assistance to victims of a crackdown on opposition. He was arrested in 2011 on tax evasion charges which appeared to be politically motivated
© RFE/RL
Dilip Roy was arrested in Bangladesh after using Facebook to criticise the ruling party’s support of a new coal power plant in an area of natural beauty. He could face up to 14 years in prison if convicted.
© Private
Waleed Abu al-Khair, a human rights lawyer in Saudi Arabia, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being convicted of a range of offences, including “disobeying the ruler” and “setting up an unlicensed organization”.
Amnesty International
Khadija Ismayilova, a journalist and outspoken government critic in Azerbaijan, has been subjected to a prolonged smear campaign including being sent screengrabs of a video shot with cameras hidden in her apartment
© RFE/RL

BRAVE: IN NUMBERS

281
people killed in 2016 for defending human rights, up from 156 in 2015. (Source: Front Line Defenders)
75%+
of killings of human rights defenders in 2016 were in the Americas. (Source: Front Line Defenders)
22
countries saw people killed for peacefully standing up for human rights in 2016


LET’S STAND WITH THE BRAVE WORLDWIDE

We want a world where people can speak out for what’s right without being attacked, threatened, jailed and more. Countries need to put laws in place which keep human rights defenders safe from harm, and scrap repressive laws, for example which attack free speech.

They need to release people who have been locked up just for challenging injustice. And they need to stop using spurious charges such as national security as an excuse to silence those who disagree with them.

Law makers, business leaders, government officials and other influential people should also make a public pledge to speak up for the brave, everywhere. By recognising human rights defenders as committed, courageous people creating a fairer society, we can protect them from further attacks.

HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS UNDER THREAT: READ OUR REPORT

Download

  • English
  • French
  • Spanish
Download