Céline Narmadji: Courage in the face of intimidation

Aboard the ship of human rights, she looks out out far and wide and draws attention to all violations. A woman of principle and courage, Céline Narmadji continues to walk a path fraught with arrests and intimidation. But even prison has not worn down her commitment.

In a country where dissidents are often oppressed, arrested and persecuted, Céline Narmadji is determined to take up the mantle of defending human rights in Chad, whatever the cost. Her work often puts her as well as her loved ones at risk. "The authorities often put pressure on one’s immediate family in order to prevail upon and dissuade the rights defender. If the family is unable to silence the defender, the authorities exert more pressure by involving their clan leader. If the defender remains unmoved, the authorities may resort to arrests, detentions and sometimes assassinations," explains Céline Narmadji.

The authorities often put pressure on one’s immediate family in order to prevail upon and dissuade the rights defender. If the family is unable to silence the defender, the authorities exert more pressure by involving their clan leader. If the defender remains unmoved, the authorities may resort to arrests, detentions and sometimes assassinations
Céline Narmadji

Céline has been at the frontline since the 1990s when she became involved with the Chadian Human Rights League and then with the Association of Women for Development and a Culture of Peace in Chad. She has been the spokesperson of the "Enough is enough" movement since October 2014. The movement is a coalition formed of 19 Chadian civil society organizations aimed at defending Chadians against arbitrary treatment and various human rights violations. 

Taking up such responsibilities is often done at great personal cost, in particular at the risk of being deprived of one’s freedom. Céline has not been spared this. In March 2016, Céline was arrested alongside three activists during a peaceful protest calling for political change and better governance. They were charged with "promoting an unarmed gathering, disturbing public order and disobeying a lawful command". 

Despite the stigma and persecution, she refuses, as she puts it, "to be corrupted". "The government uses corruption, blackmail and any means at its disposal to silence civil society, the media and and any dissenting voices," says Céline Narmadji. At 50 years of age, she has been called all manner of names. According to the authorities, Céline and other human rights defenders are, "highway robbers", "Chadians in the pay of foreigners", "stateless persons", and "people who do not love their country". However, those who know Céline admire her for her courage to stand on principle, her determination to defend the rights of women and her fight against injustice in her country, Chad.