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Human Rights Defenders
The selection of the finalists for the 2013 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk has now taken place and the overall winner will be chosen by an independent jury of cross-party Ministers, Parliamentarians and Members of the European Parliament. Having read the 90 nominations- and seen the quality and dedicated commitment of the human rights defenders - it is clear that so many would be a worthy finalist or winner and how impossible the task for the decision makers is. To all who were nominated, let me say on behalf or Front Line Defenders how much you inspire us and how much we value your unrelenting work for the rights of others. If you need support at any time, please contact us.
The finalists are:-
Bahtiyor Hamraev, the head of the Djizak regional branch of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan has been a dedicated human rights defender for the last 15 years. Despite being attacked and threatened many times and despite the arrest of his son to punish his father for his human rights work, Bahtiyor has refused to leave the country and tried to make a difference in one of the worst human rights situations in the region.
Dina Meza glanced over her shoulder at the man sitting at the table behind us at the Intercontinental Hotel.
“Let’s get out of here,” she said.
The man, who had a bit of a paunch, thinning hair, and was typing on a laptop, did not look menacing to my colleague Daniela and me. But then, we were not the ones who have been receiving threats on our life due to our work. We were not the ones who had to go to the U.K. in order to escape the escalating danger.
We trusted Dina when she said it was time to go somewhere else.
Dina, with dark hair, almond eyes, and a bright smile, is a journalist and human rights defender in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. She works with COFADEH, the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras, as well as being active in movements in defense of rights of women and campesinos (peasants). She worked on radio programs for COFADEH and for the Women’s Movement for Peace.
I fell in love with Sambo Creek the moment we turned onto the sand-swept main road, just as the sun was setting. A Garifuna village on the north coast of Honduras, the strong sense of community was immediately evident. Naum, our host from OFRANEH (Organizacion Fraternal Negra de Honduras) met our car and walked us through the village. He greeted every man, woman, and child we passed by name.
“Are you from Sambo Creek originally?” I asked Naum.
“I was born here, raised here, and I will die here,” he answered, in a tone of voice that implied he did not feel stuck, but rather would not want to live anywhere else.
As the security situation continues to deteriorate in Mali I have become more and more worried for human rights defenders active in the country. Today I managed to contact a woman human rights defender (whrd) who participated in our October workshop for West Africa. During our conversation I learned a lot about the nature of the threat posed to human rights defenders in Mali and the necessity for rapid action to protect those at risk.
Until recently this WHRD had been staying in the Northern city of Gao. which has been controlled by the Islamists since March of last year. She told me that the situation is very tense, and that it has gotten worse since the beginning of air strikes by the French military.
In fact, yesterday, the spokesman for the Islamists declared that, by launching an attack on them, the French have "opened the gates of hell." Although the Islamists say they will only target soldiers, civilians are the ones who have had to bear the brunt of the violence so far and they'll likely suffer the most from this escalation of conflict.
Human rights defenders who have been active in the region are particularly at risk.