The fight for freedom is not the sole prerogative of the political arena. In countless countries around the world freedom is being oppressed and it is up to civil society and committed individuals to make the change. These catalysts were honoured at this year´s Oslo Freedom Forum and we want to bring you three innovative examples of how activists are promoting freedom in three widely different countries.
On March 28, the Brussels office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation had the pleasure of welcoming a delegation of Human Rights activists from Cuba. Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz-Pacheco, President of the Cuban Human Rights Commission (Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional) and his two colleagues were visiting Brussels to raise awareness about the ongoing Human Rights violations in Cuba.
In the framework of the start of the talks on a political agreement between the EU and Cuba, Human Rights activists from Cuba came together and publish a common manifesto (click here to view the manifesto in Spanish or English). While the EU reaches out to Cuba, they want to make sure that fundamental issues of Human Rights violations are kept high on the agenda and are discussed seriously at the negotiation table. Continue reading
Blanca: During the Black Spring in 2003, the Cuban government arrested and summarily tried and sentenced 75 human rights defenders, journalists and librarians for alleged “acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state”. One of the human rights activists arrested was my husband Raúl Rivero.
After the arrest, the government retained them in trial detention in a prison close to la Havana. There, we, their wives, daughters and sisters met and started to give each other moral and financial support.
The Damas de Blanco – Ladies in White – were formed two weeks after the arrests by a small group of women related to the prisoners, mostly their wives. I was present the first day we went to the Santa Rita church for mass, dressed in white in sign for our pacific opposition to the massive arrests. Every Sunday, more women joined the protest and the movement grew bigger. After a few weeks of attending mass in Santa Rita, Laura Pollán, proposed to go out to the nearby park and to organize a silent non-violent protest march.
During the Black Spring in 2003, the Cuban government arrested and summarily tried and sentenced 75 human rights defenders, journalists and librarians for alleged “acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state”. The “Damas de Blanco” – “Ladies in White” – were formed two weeks after the arrests. They protested against the arrests by attending mass in white clothes and carry out non-violent protests every Sunday.
In 2005 they received the Sakharov Price of Freedom of Thought. When receiving the price on behalf of the Damas de Blanco, Blanca Reyes said that the Cuban government violated its citizen’s human rights “on a daily basis.” Blanca Reyes lives in exile in Spain with her husband Raúl Rivero, a famous poet and author who was sentenced to 20 years of jail in 2003. He was released in November 2004 following international pressure and subsequently relocated to Spain. About the Cuban regime he said: “I was afraid of my own fear. I was afraid of not being able to stand it. Everything is programmed to undo you as a human being.”
On 27 May Cuban human rights activist Antonio Rodiles visited our office. Antonio is a political activist who has achieved international visibility for his work as the coordinator of Estado de SATS, a forum which was created in July 2010 to encourage debate on social, cultural and political issues in Cuba. Rodiles is also the main coordinator of the Citizen Demand for Another Cuba (Demanda Ciudadana Por Otra Cuba), an initiative calling for Cuba to ratify the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which the country signed in 2008.
Antonio told us that he founded the forum Estado de Sats in Havana with the aim of creating “a plural space for participation and debate between different sections of the Cuban society”. Videos of the debates have widely circulated via YouTube, and have also been seen inside Cuba, where people pass them to others using USB memory sticks.