Free Russia Foundation joins global resistance to authoritarianism

Sep 19 2018

The Forum brought together prominent social and human rights activists, politicians, musicians, tech companies and writers from different countries who discussed the state of freedom across the globe and the ways of resisting authoritarianism and gross violations of fundamental human rights.

The Forum was comprised of (1) the Interactive Expo, where participants could learn about the latest technologies, protest fashion and much more, (2) a series of discussion sessions and (3) working lunches on different topics, ranging from the power of decentralized technology to the interfaith efforts to rebuild Iraq after ISIS. Over 1,000 people registered for the Forum, and it was completely sold out.

Free Russia Foundation’s team has participated in the Forum to share the current state of human rights and freedoms in Russia with other participants and to network with fellow freedom advocates. According to the Human Rights Foundation, which organized the Forum, over 4 billion people in the world – more than a half of the world’s population – live under authoritarian regimes. The firsthand experience of living under those regimes, their struggle and resistance, was shared by activists from Turkey and North Korea, Venezuela and Vietnam, Togo and China, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. They were stories of broken lives, suffering, brutality, injustice and miserable living conditions which, nevertheless, did not break the people, but gave them strength to stand up and fight back. They were the stories of the bravery and resilience of thousands of people who, despite their unjust battle with mighty authoritarian regimes, did not bow their heads, but do not make the headlines.

As a North Korean defector, Yeon-mi Park, said in her speech: “Here I am today to talk about the people who were forgotten. The free people have to speak for them, because who else will speak for those who are not free?”

While focused primarily on the South American, African and Asian regions, the Forum could not ignore the latest development in Putin’s Russia. The President of Human Rights Foundation and the founder of Oslo Freedom Forum, Thor Halvorssen, in his opening speech, talked about the poisoning of a member of Russian activist group Pussy Riot and active anti-Kremlin critic Pyotr Verzilov.

 The President of Human Rights Foundation and the founder of Oslo Freedom Forum, Thor Halvorssen, in his opening speech, talked about the poisoning of a member of Russian activist group Pussy Riot and active anti-Kremlin critic Pyotr Verzilov. At Oslo Freedom Forum in New York, 18 September 2018.

Thor Halvorssen also talked about the Pyotr Verzilov’s activism during the World Cup. At Oslo Freedom Forum in New York, 18 September 2018

A discussion between former U.S. diplomat Ian C. Kelly and prominent Russian dissident Garry Kasparov explored how the free world can stand up to Putin’s threat to world peace and security, as well as human rights in Russia itself. During the discussion, the former U.S. ambassador to the OSCE showed a video made by American diplomats at the OSCE headquarters in Vienna demanding the release of Oleg Sentsov from a Russian prison.

“How can the free word stand up to Putin and advocate for peace, security, and the protection of human rights in Russia?” Garry Kasparov in conversation with Ian C. Kelly at Oslo Freedom Forum in New York, 18 September 2018


One of 7 working lunches, called “Holding Tyrants Accountable through Tech,” focused on using innovative computer technologies to provide evidence of war crimes and human rights violations to governments, NGOs and the United Nations. Such technologies are currently used in Syria to predict airstrikes carried out from the Russian military air base Khmeimim. As one of the speakers, Serbian activist Srđa Popović, said at the end of the Forum: “Most important is knowing that you are not alone, which is one of the biggest values of things like the Oslo Freedom Forum. We are the family, the family of people who really care, and sticking to the family really helps.”

The Forum highlighted the work of activists and innovators, inspired actions through the exchange of ideas and connected participants with allies and supporters. By participating in the Forum, Free Russia Foundation has the privilege of joining the global resistance against authoritarianism.

By Dmitri Valuev

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