Ability to endure death threats and harassment… all part of a front line activist's CV
James Savage is our Human Rights Defenders Programme Manager, supporting and protecting activists around the world who face grave risks conducting their work.
Boarding a plane to Dublin a day or two before your birthday usually signals an intention to sink a glass or three of the black stuff to mark another year of one’s journey along the learning curve that is life.
I’m not saying I won’t have a pint on Thursday as I turn 43, but I’m not heading there to celebrate my birthday. Instead I’ll be toasting the 130 remarkable human rights activists from 85 countries who are gathering at the Front Line Defenders Dublin Platform.
It will be a privilege to share the day with human rights activists, most of them facing great risks in carrying out this inspiring work. Many of the human rights defenders I’ll meet work despite death threats, perhaps sent through an anonymous note stuffed under their front door or texted to their mobile in the middle of the night. For some, such as Honduran human rights lawyer Antonio Trejo and his brother José, it sadly leads to their killing.
This sinister and terrifying harassment is all part of the job for those who defend the rights of others in places where repression is the norm. This week I’m hoping to hear testimony from Azerbaijani activists whose freedoms are being restricted in the run up to tomorrow’s presidential elections. I will meet Zimbabweans who have continued to campaign for better human rights despite a crackdown which intensified around elections this year. And I expect to hear Afghan women’s rights activists call on the international community to ensure the rights they have won for women and girls since the fall of the Taliban are not traded away in peace talks.
Woven amongst the stories of survival will be stirring tales of mutual support and international solidarity that human rights activists draw on day to day. This will be a week to celebrate compassion, commitment, courage, and determination. Values that drive human rights activism on the front line. I’ll raise a glass to that. Cheers!
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.