Will you help us defend the defenders?
Every day, ordinary people with extraordinary passion stand up for the human rights that many of us enjoy without realising. They stand to protect their communities, themselves, all of us – but they are in great danger. So who’s protecting them? Together, we can.
The freedom to be ourselves, believe in what we want and love who we choose are things we should all be able to take for granted. In fact, they’re basic human rights. But all over the world, people in power are denying others their rights by abusing, imprisoning and even killing them for who they are and the choices they make.
What are human rights defenders?
The good news is, ordinary people are fighting back. These people are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers; teachers and students, nurses and journalists. They call out discrimination and champion equality in their everyday lives. They stand to protect themselves, their communities, you. They are passionate about fairness.
They are called human rights defenders.
What’s happening to them right now?
Right now, human rights defenders are in more danger from the people who want to silence them than ever before. Those in power are misusing their authority to stage violent crackdowns against these people - making it harder and harder for them to do the vital work they do on behalf of all of us. Last year was the deadliest year yet to be a human rights defender, with 207 people from around the world killed for defending human rights in 2017 alone.
Despite facing arrest, attacks and sometimes worse, their commitment to building a fairer world drives them to carry on. But the greatest strength is in numbers. It comes from knowing you’re not alone, and knowing you’ve got humanity on your side. And that’s where we can all help.
Meet 38-year-old Tep Vanny from Cambodia. She’s an ordinary, hardworking woman. A much-loved wife and mother of two. But her children were without her for two years, after she was jailed in August 2016 – simply for protesting peacefully against the illegal evictions of hundreds of people from their homes in her city, Phnom Penh, to make way for a luxury tourist development.
Luckily, enough of us spoke up for Tep that the Cambodian government couldn’t ignore us, and she was released, pardoned and reunited with her family this month (August 2018). An amazing 17,686 of you took action for Tep by writing to Cambodia’s Prime Minister to tell him to free her, and it worked!
Because Tep isn’t a criminal – she’s a human rights defender. Safe, adequate housing and freedom from forced eviction are fundamental human rights. She was simply trying to protect those rights for herself, her family and everyone else who has called this place home for generations.
Despite being harassed, beaten, arrested and imprisoned, Tep never gave up – so neither did we.
Azza Soliman, Egyptian women's rights activist. Photo by Rene Clement
What can I do?
Stories like Tep Vanny’s prove that when we all join forces to show others we’re behind them, humanity wins. But other human rights defenders like her still need our help. Like Azza Soliman, an Egyptian lawyer who has spent the last three decades standing up to protect basic human rights for the women of Egypt – such as the rights not to be raped, beaten or harassed.
Azza is not a criminal, but the Egyptian authorities want to silence her. She is currently awaiting trial on dubious charges, and could face years in prison. But we can help change her story. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again – because together, we’re powerful.
Here are three ways you can get involved in our Brave campaign to help defend human rights defenders:
- Take action for Azza: Tell Cambodia to release her now
- Share this blog: Raise awareness of human rights defenders
- Join us: Be a part of the movement
*Statistic from Global Witness 2018 report
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.