OPINION
Ruth Smeeth: "The brave men and women who refuse to be silenced"

Summer is supposed to be the quiet time for news - not this year

21 Aug 2020
BY RUTH SMEETH

August is meant to be a quiet month for news. But this month has been anything but quiet.

Every day the world has been exposed to a new and sustained attack on our basic human rights. In every corner of the world, our collective rights to free expression and our freedom of association seem to be under siege. And for too many, the most basic of our human rights – our right to life, to live in peace – is, too often, not considered a right at all by those who will use any tool at their disposal to retain their power and the status quo.

It seems that at any given time, there is always at least one government, one repressive regime or a non-state actor using their power to remove the rights of citizens.

The results are heart-breaking to watch and devastating for the families that are torn apart and left scared and isolated.

This week alone, we have seen images of a teenager from Sudan who drowned as he tried to get to the UK to plead asylum – a 16-year-old who was fleeing war and a military regime.

In Russia, the leader of the opposition, Alexei Navalny, is in a coma after reportedly being poisoned as he travelled back to Moscow.  His wife is being refused access to his hospital bed.

The first-hand account from a Uighur teacher who had been exposed to the Xinjiang concentration camps was published this week. It is a harrowing personal testimony of a genocide.

In Hong Kong, the impact of the national security law continues to be felt far and wide with arrests and intimidation now being deployed to silence dissenters.  And its reach is now being felt outside of China.  On university campuses around the world, professors and academics are starting to consider the impact their teaching will have on Chinese students.  Knowledge has become a vulnerability for too many Chinese students as they return to Hong Kong. Seats of academic enlightenment and learning are having to change what they teach and how they teach it in order to protect their students – this is not acceptable.

And of course, we have followed in horror what is happening in Belarus, on European soil, as Lukashenko refuses to leave office and hold free and fair elections.  Journalists arrested, protestors tortured and artists and musicians sacked for standing up to the regime.

These are the stories which have held the news cycle and grabbed our attention.  However, for each example I cite there are a further dozen cases of tyranny that need to be exposed and challenged, in every corner of the earth.  And yet, woven through each of these affronts to our basic rights is a single thread of brave men and women who refuse to be silenced. A cadre of freedom fighters determined to protect their rights and ours. They do not know each other and they likely never will meet but they are fighting the same fight. They are holding back the tide of tyranny and they are risking everything to do so.

The question for all of us is what can we do to help?  How can we support people on the other side of the world as they stand up to tyrants?  How can we make sure they know that we stand with them?

At Index, it is our role but also our responsibility to stand with them.  To tell their stories, to publish their work, to make sure that the world knows what is happening to them. But to do that we need your help.  We need your support, emotional and of course financial. Behind each of these headlines is a person, a family, a life. Their lives are as valuable as ours but their journeys are at the moment just too hard.  To support them we need your help – please donate to Index, just a five pounds a month will enable us to tell someone else’s story.

Comments are closed.

Index logo white

Join us to protect and promote freedom of speech in the UK and across the world.
Since 1972, Index on Censorship has been leading the campaign for free expression.
Our award-winning magazine originally provided the platform for the untold stories of dissidents and resistance from behind the Iron Curtain and is now a home for some of the greatest campaigning writers of our age.
Journalistic freedom, artistic expression, the right to protest, the right to speak your mind, wherever you live.  These are the founding principles of Index on Censorship.
So join us, by subscribing to our newsletter or making a donation, to use your voice to ensure that everyone else can be heard too.
Go to the Index on Censorship home page