The 7th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy was held this past Tuesday at the UN Headquarters in Geneva. Sponsored by 20 human rights NGOs, the Geneva Summit brings together various human rights leaders, activists, and dissidents from around the world who speak out on behalf of human rights, justice, and democracy. This year’s summit focused mainly on the themes of confronting authoritarianism, fighting oppression and defending human rights, communist regime reforms, and the future of liberal democracy.
This year’s panel discussion also highlighted two countries with very poor human rights’ records–Nigeria and Pakistan. Saa, a Nigerian schoolgirl who escaped from Boko Haram, spoke about her personal experience when she was kidnapped by the terrorist group. Following this, Ashiq Masih, who is on death row in Pakistan for blasphemy, spoke about her personal experience and violation of her right to freedom of speech. Throughout the summit, various other human rights activists from countries such as Russia, Venezuela, Syria, North Korea, and China gave their personal stories of human rights violations, giving this year’s conference an added personal dimension.
Furthermore, during the conference, two prestigious awards were given out. The Women’s Rights Award was given to Masih Alinejad for the creation of a Facebook page inviting women in Iran to post pictures of themselves without a headscarf. This Facebook page became incredibly popular and represented the larger political message of protesting the requirement for women to wear a hijab. Ms. Alinejad, an Iranian journalist, said she is not strictly opposed to the hijab, but believes women should be given a choice about wearing one. The next award, the Courage Award, was given to Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam on his blog.
Finally, the summit concluded with a discussion on the future of liberal democracy, with statements from the director of UN Watch and other human rights NGOs on the importance of promoting human rights and democracy, particularly in countries with poor human rights track records.
Meeting: Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy
Date & Location: Tuesday, 24 February 2015; UN Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland
Speakers: Markus Loening, Chair of Human Rights Committee of Liberal International; Jakub Klepal, Executive Director, Forum 2000; Yavuz Baydar, Turkish journalist; Maria Baronova, Russian human rights activist; Tamara Suju, Venezuelan human rights lawyer; Yeon-Mi Park, 21-year-old North Korean defector; Tom Gross, journalist; Saa, Nigerian schoolgirl who escaped from Boko Haram; Emmanuel Ogebe, International Human rights lawyer; Pierre Torres, French Journalist held hostage by ISIS for 10 months; Philippe Robinet, CEO Editions Kero; Ashiq Masih, Husband of Asia Bibi, on death row in Pakistan for blasphemy; Ladan Boroumand, Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy in Iran; Dicki Chhoyang, Central Tibetan Administration; Ibrahem Al-Idelbi, Syrian journalist and activist; Il Lim, North Korean defector and former slave laborer; Maria Corina Machado, Venezuelan opposition leader; Yang Jianli, Chinese dissident, president of Initiatives for China; Alex Chow, Secretary General of Hong Kong Federation of Students; Lester Shum, Deputy Secretary General of Hong Kong Federation of Students; Amanda Alvarez, People in Need, Czech Republic; Juan Francisco Sigler Amaya, Cuban human rights activist; Manuel Cuesta Morua, Cuban dissident leader; Hillel Neuer, Executive Director, UN Watch; Fouzia Elbayed, MP, Morocco, Member of Human Rights Committee of Liberal International; Javier El-Hage, General Counsel, Human Rights Foundation; Subhas Gujadhur, Director, Universal Rights Group; Ladan Boroumand, Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy in Iran; Yang Jianli, Chinese dissident, president of Initiatives for China
Written By WIT Representative: Marli Kasdan