South African lawyer and anti-apartheid activist Albie Sachs (80) in 1988 lost an arm and the sight in one eye as a result of a car bomb, planted by the apartheid regime. If the perpetrator would be tried in South Africa and was released for lack of evidence, Sachs would be delighted, he has often explained. Because it would mean that in his country would be a free, democratic country, in which the rule of law prevailed. He calls it his ‘soft vengeance’ on the apartheid system. The documentary The Soft Vengeance: Albie Sachs And The New South Africa about his life that bears this title shows how Sachs made a crucial contribution to this new, democratic South Africa.
Claudia Paz y Paz
Claudia Paz y Paz who is portrayed in Burden of Peace, is the first female Attorney General in the history of Guatemala. She had numerous enemies, as she energetically waged war on past and present crimes and human rights abuses. She could not finish her job, but made great progress. ‘We have tackled the idea that it is impossible to change things in Guatemala.’
‘This conflict in DR Congo is a conflict caused by economic interests – and it is being waged by destroying Congolese women.’ This statement of Dr. Denis Mukwege from The Man Who Mends Women, is characteristic for the surgeon from Bukavu. Not only does he treat raped and mutilated women, he also calls politicians in his own country and abroad to account.
It has been almost two years since Edward Snowden from CITIZENFOUR revealed the extent of intelligence agencies privacy violations. The young American whistleblower caused a worldwide debate on surveillance, but paid the price – he can no longer travel or return to his home country. What drove Snowden to become a fugitive and what does his life look like today? Edward Snowden in ten quotes.
In Ukraine, many Russian soldiers die, but their deaths are unacknowledged: Russia is officially not at war with Ukraine. They return – if they are not left behind somewhere on the battlefield – as ‘cargo 200’: the term used in former Soviet Union countries for the transport of fallen soldiers. Along with her organisation, the Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg, Ella Polyakova from Cargo 200 provides ‘some kind of human rights school’ for soldiers and their kin.
Men have dropped the ball in her country, Nigerian civil rights activist Hafsat Abiola (visible in The Supreme Price) says. Corruption and insecurity in Nigeria are worse than ever. That is why the organisation she founded stimulates women’s leadership. ‘If women are not allowed to play their role, society cannot progress.’
Maryam al-Khawaja from We are the Giant has been described as ‘the sort of woman dictators have nightmares about’. Now operating from Denmark, this Bahraini activist works hard to raise international awareness about the situation in the country where her father is imprisoned. ‘Especially the US keeps empowering the Bahraini government to continue its human rights violations.’
Jamaica, the Caribbean island known for its reggae music, also has a less positive track record as a country where gay, lesbian and transgender people suffer enormous violence. Lawyer Maurice Tomlinson featured in The Abominable Crime was the most visible advocate for the rights of homosexuals in Jamaica for years, until he was outed by a local newspaper. Forced to leave Jamaica, he did not give up the fight. ‘From abroad I can be more outspoken.’
Her entire life, Egyptian writer, activist and physician Nawal el-Saadawi from The Free Voice of Egypt defends women’s and human rights. She broke many political, religious and sexual taboos, and remains a passionate foe of rulers and their use of religion – all rulers, all religions. At 83, she is as outspoken as ever. ‘Religion is a disaster for women.’
Yassin al-Haj Saleh
Amid the destruction of the Syrian civil war, writer and dissident Yassin al-Haj Saleh from Our Terrible Country never lost his belief in human dignity. And also as a refugee in Istanbul, he believes that culture and an open debate will be able to defy oppression and sectarianism in his country. ‘I write to create hope.’