Originally planned for 5 June, the World Environment Day, this YouTube broadcast had to be delayed to 21 June due to technical issues. Despite late, we had an amazing YouTube live event with scientist Tierra Curry and climate activist Rob Callender to celebrate World Environment Day and once again reminded each other of the importance of our environment and treating it well. The particular theme of this broadcast was what the youth could do to spread awareness on the current climate crisis.
Holocaust Memorial Day is a national commemoration day in the United Kingdom, dedicated to remembering the Jews and other victims who suffered during the Holocaust, under the Nazi persecution. After first being held in 2001, it has been observed on January 27th every year since.
As Human Rights Solidarity’s Immigration Committee, we prepared a splendid program, consisting of interviews with Holocaust Survivors and Academics, Artworks, Musical Performances and Poems.
Sacha Kester is a survivor of the Holocaust from the 1940s, as well as a committed political activist for equal rights, justice and fairness. Sacha will be sharing his upsetting experiences and memories on our YouTube channel, as well as answering some of our questions. His daughter, Susanna Kester – a Creative Arts Therapist, workshop leader and volunteer for numerous community-based projects such as the Finchley Foodbank, Finchley Progressive Synagogue Social Action Committee and Generation2Generation – will also be joining us.
Generation2Generation is an organisation that helps the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors to tell their family stories. They promote and inspire tolerance and understanding in society through supporting these people so that their presentations to schools and community organisations are of high quality, historically accurate and have lasting impact. For more details, check out their website here: https://www.generation2generation.org.
Joanna Michlic, an Honorary Senior Research Associate at the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies, is also joining us on this day to speak to us about ‘Lessons from the Holocaust for the Twenty First Century: Listening to the Voices of Jewish Child Survivors’. You can find out more about her research projects, past publications and awards on her UCL page: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/institute-of-ad.
Refugee Solidarity Week is a week of celebration of contribution of the immigrant communities to the UK society, launched by Human Rights Solidarity in 2020. It is celebrated within the framework of the Refugee Week, which houses the World Refugee Day (20 June). Refugee Solidarity Week is aimed at celebrating, empowering and inspiring refugees and their contribution to the UK and encouraging a better understanding between communities. Our programme for 2021 included art and music performances, poetry and film and book reviews. We also had an interview with Becky Dell from Citizens of the World Choir and Moses Saidler from Refugee Education UK.
Here are a volunteer’s words for their experiences at the Refugee Solidarity Week:
“Participating in the making of this programme as a refugee was an unforgettable experience. I hope we were able to motivate and encourage other refugees around the world as well. This event helped me develop my skills in hosting and video editing, participating in Human Rights Solidarity projects is always a great delight.”
What have we learned?
This experience gave us the chance to better develop our teamwork skills and allowed us to further expand our talents in arts, music and literature, letting us use them in means of activism and advocacy as well. It showed us that we, as refugees and volunteers, can have an impact on change using our skills and talents.
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed every year by UNESCO on 21st of March. Human Rights Solidarity’s YAct Committee (Youth Action Committee) organized a YouTube panel for 2021’s theme; “Youth standing up against racism.” The YouTube live stream contained art performances as well as interviews with young activists and the public, encouraging and educating us all on the importance of this day.
Here are a volunteer’s words for their experience at the Day of The Elimination of Racial Discrimination Event:
“It was one of my first experiences in helping in a programme so big. We did it in the middle of the pandemic. So I believe it was empowering and motivating for us in the middle of such a crisis. Making a programme against something that I also do face was very nice and I hope it motivates all those who face racism to raise their voices as well.”
What have we learned?
We had the chance to learn more about this day and about the importance of racial equality through the research we made for this project. We improved our critical thinking skills as well as our technical skills on hosting and editing online events.
Human Rights Solidarity has been fighting for an equal and liveable future for the next generations. 8 March is the day that we celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of all women around the world. 8 March is not only a day of celebration for us, but also a great day to talk about the challenges that women have been facing. On 8 March 2021, we interviewed 6 amazing women from different countries on YouTube. The main goal behind this was to see how women in different countries were affected by violence and abuse. Our speakers’ personal stories enlightened us and our audience on the value of the rights we have and on the importance of the human rights work we do.
Our amazing guest speakers list included:
Rita Edah: A psychotherapist, counsellor, and coach from the UK.
Mahbuba Jebin: A PhD holder journalist and self-defence teacher for victims of violence. Mahbuba is originally from Bangladesh and lives in the UK.
Gabriela Rondon: A lawyer and human rights activist at Anis – Institute of Bioethics, Human Rights and Gender from Brazil.
Louise Anne: A domestic abuse recovery coach from the UK.
Dilnaz Kerim: A 17-year-old Uyghur from East Turkestan. Dilnaz experienced the life of an Uyghur in China and knows what Uyghur women are going through right now. Grown up in Norway, she currently lives in the UK.
Sevgi Akarcesme: An exiled Turkish journalist and an ESL teacher who is currently living in the USA.
World Wildlife Day is celebrated annually on the 3rd of March in support of animals and plants across the world. The event was proposed by Thailand and was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly during its 68th meeting in 2013.
On the occasion of the World Wildlife Day, we celebrated forms of wild fauna and flora and tried to raise awareness on the benefits of their conservation. At the same time, we discussed the urgent need to step up the fight against wildlife crime and human-induced reduction of species, which have wide-ranging economic, environmental and social impacts.
We invited various guest speakers from different backgrounds sharing the same interest in our ecosystem and biodiversity.
Our guest speakers were:
Tierra Curry, Senior Scientist at Center for Biological Diversity
Finlay Pringle, Environmental campaigner at Ullapool Shark Ambassador
Erik Solheim, The Sixth UN Environment Executive Director and Undersecretary General of the United Nations
Marjan Verschragen, An ambassador at eXXpedition artist and environmental technician
Youth-led human rights activism has never been an easy task. Young human rights defenders faced multiple challenges in a more and more divided world, even before the global pandemic.
This year on the 9th of December we celebrated these brave young human rights defenders who showed resilience even in the darkest of times. We celebrated and applauded their heroism, successes and sacrifices for a better future for us all.
To show our appreciation of their work, we invited a diverse range of speakers from many different backgrounds and cultures throughout Europe to join us at our YouTuve Live event.
The event featured the following names:
Asiye Betül, a co-chair of YAct, the Youth Action Committee of the HRS.
Finlay Pringle, the 13 years old activist who has been involved in campaigning on conservation of the oceans and marine life. He is an activist with FFF. which stands for Fridays for Future… Also called Youth Strike for Climate, FFF is an international movement of school students striking on Fridays for climate.
Sara Nathan, a human rights activist working on Access to Accommodation for refugees and asylum seekers at her organization Refugees at Home.Sara is a broadcast journalist by background. She served in many public authorities before she became a co-founder of the Refugees At Home charity. Refugees at Home finds hosts in Britain for destitute asylum-seekers and refugees. She has since hosted refugees from many countries including Syria, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Afghanistan and Egypt. Refugees at home have made over 1700 placements and hosted over 140,000 individual person nights.
Rumi Unal, an international relations graduate from Turkey. Rumi used to be a Turkish diplomat. He served in South Korea and Bulgaria. He was dismissed from his job during the mass dismissals after the Coup Attempt in Turkey. He is now the coordinator of Collectif DDH based in Paris. Collectif DDH is specialized in human rights violations in Turkey.
Xeni Dani from MOKA: Meet Over Culture and Arts. We love the idea of MOKA. Xeni was a child immigrant from Albania to Italy. As she grew up she dedicated herself to human rights. She has been working on cases of political persecution, torture and violations of freedom of expression.
Paola Gaffurini, an advocacy officer at the Open Dialogue Foundation. Open Dialogue Foundation has been active in post-Soviet countries and the European Union to help victims of grave human rights violations.
Antonia Kuhn, an aspiring lawyer from Germany. Antonia is active within the ranks of Amnesty International Germany/ and is coordinating the work of Amnesty International Germany on Brazil. Antonia was one of the two German Youth Delegates to the UN General Assembly in 2018. She has a long list of accomplishments in human rights activism which we are very excited to hear about.
Kadir Ertürk and Musa Obuz from the Solidarity Band. The Solidarity Band is the music group of the Human Rights Solidarity. Kadir and Musa performed two Turkish songs. The first one is Black Train, Kara Tren in Turkish. This is a sad song from the times of the First World War and it tells the hopes and despair of people waiting for a letter from the frontiers about their loved ones. The letters would come with the Black Train. So called because these steam trains would all be painted black. And occasionally bad news would arrive…
The second song was a more lively and celebratory one. Caney Caney… Originally a Kurdish song, Caney Caney complains about friends who show up only in good days and are lost when they are most needed
Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders.
Ali Dinçer, another Turkish diplomat who lost his job during the mass purge that followed the Coup Attempt of 2016. After leaving Turkey he became the Secretary General of the Belgium based Solidarity with OTHERS. The OTHERS is active on reporting and keeping databases of widespread human rights violations in Turkey.
Fiona Amony, a 24-year old activist from Uganda. Fiona joined Restless Development as a Volunteer on the Girls’ Advocacy Alliance (GAA) project. She advocated for workplaces free from sexual harassment. Throughout the pandemic, she has been voluntarily running a helpline.
Bethany Holden, the founder of RefuNet which is connecting refugees and volunteers who would like to teach them English. We spoke with Bethany on how language education helps refugees realize their rights and perhaps make them feel more integrated and free.
Shila Block and Tash Thomass, to gender equality activists. Shila Block on the human rights of women in conflict areas. In 2018 she was a youth delegate to the CSW (Conference on Women’s rights at the UN). Today she is a part of the National Youth activist of UN Women’s Generation Equality Forum.
And Tash is an LGBTQ activist from the United Kingdom. She is the Director of Diversity, Equality & Inclusion at European Coworking Assembly.
Amirah Hussein, a masters student at LSR in human rights and politics. Amirah used to be the President of the Amnesty International Society in the University of Nottingham, while doing her BA. She is commenting on human rights and student life in her Instagram account.
Nuray Düzenli of the European Institute for Sustainable Development.
Our last speaker was the Co-Chair of the Human Rights Solidarity, Merve Aslangoren. Merve is a law student from Coventry University, UK. She is a member of the founding cohort of the Human Rights Solidarity.
Virus on Freedom of Expression: Press Freedom in three Not-Free Countries Before, During and After the Covid-19 Pandemic: China, Turkey and Russia
DATE: 18 August 2020
COMMITTEE: FreeWord Committee
On 18 August 2020, the FreeWord Committee of the Human Rights Solidarity hosted a series of panels on the situation of freedom of expression in three countries deemed as NOT FREE by Freedom House: China, Turkey and Russia. Hold under the Covid-19 Pandemic, the panels also looked at how the Pandemic did and would worsen the situation in these countries.
Already before the Pandemic the three countries in our radar had the worst press freedom reports in the world, with China and Turkey competing with each other by means of the number of journalists jailed every year, and Russia surpassing all nightmares with 58 journalists killed and seven gone missing only in 2019.
When Covid-19 hit the world, idealist-futurists hoped that the pandemic would open our eyes to the sufferings of others and teach us a valuable lesson of empathy. Unfortunately, expectations proved wrong when countries started to close their borders.
Just within a few weeks’ time, COVID-19 had radically transformed us, the society, and our governments. With its call for strict tracking mechanisms and limited freedom of movement, Covid-19 was now threatening the future of liberal democracies and their very values.
However, a greater challenge that remains is how the authoritarian governments of China, Turkey and Russia use this pandemic as a leverage to spread their own propaganda of their so-called success in controlling the infection. Starting from the authoritarian countries, executive branches of governments all over the world asked for further powers of controlling mobility of people and goods. Unfortunately, history proves that the powers attained at times of emergencies tend to become the new normalcies.
Our panellists discussed, not only the past and future of the freedom of press in these countries, but also alternative solutions peoples of these countries are innovating.
The webinar started with the keynote speech of Jeremy Dear, the Deputy General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists for 10 years. Jeremy worked for 25 years as a freelance journalist in the UK and Latin America covering human rights and freedom of expression issues. Jeremy has written for The Guardian and New Statesman among others. His keynote speech can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9LasgLSAGs
Dr James Rodgers is a Reader in International Journalism, responsible for the MA International Journalism at the City University of London. James was a journalist for twenty years. He spent fifteen years at the BBC, completing correspondent postings in Moscow, Brussels, and Gaza, as well as many other assignments. His particular areas of interest in international journalism are Russia and the former Soviet Union, and the Middle East. His presentation can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXo7vtotwhc
Our second speaker on Russia was Gulnoza Said. Gulnoza is a journalist and communications professional with over 15 years of experience in New York, Prague, Bratislava, and Tashkent. She has covered issues including politics, media, religion, and human rights with a focus on Central Asia, Russia, and Turkey. Gulnoza Said is the Europe and Central Asia program coordinator in Committee to Protect Journalists. Her presentation can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Hk-LCHuvjw
The third speaker of the Russia Session was Sofya Orlosky, a senior program manager of Eurasia at Freedom House. Prior to joining Freedom House Sofya was based in Moscow, with various local Russian NGOs and later with the National Democratic Institute for International Relations, designing and conducting immersion training for civic activists, local government officials and political party members on various aspects of civic engagement and political participation. Sofya’s presentation is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_G9IITpCn9M
The first speaker of the Turkey Session was Yavuz Baydar, an award-winning journalist and the Editor-in-Chief of Ahvalnew.com. Ahval has become one of the few breathing places of the independent Turkish media. It is published in English, Turkish and Arabic. Ahval’s podcasts are some of the most listened podcasts about Turkey. Baydar blogged with the Huffington Post and Al Jazeera, sharing his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom and history. Baydar’s presentation can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3rvvPXIYKI
The second speaker of the Turkey Panel was Julie Carolyn Ward, a British Labour Party politician who served as a Member of the European Parliament. During her term in the office, she supported several campaigns for freedom of the press in Turkey, including personally flying to Turkey and observing court cases of prominent journalists. In 2016 she was even arrested while flying to Diyarbakir to attend a conference. So she had the first-hand experience of issues of freedom of thought and expression in Turkey. Her speech is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZviF610T34
Our third Turkey Session speaker was Abdullah Ayasun, a freelance journalist based in Washington DC. Abdullah has been contributing to Huffington Post, the Globe Post, Irish Times and appeared at CNN and BBC on occasions. He writes on American political affairs, Turkey, the Middle East, and beyond. His presentation can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WEBkT79u-Y
In the China Session, we will be listening to four speakers: Melissa Chen, Jemimah Steinfeld, Megha Rajagopalan and Evan Fowler. The whole of the China Session can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHB8f5S1RPo
The first speaker of our China Session was Melissa Chen, the Managing Director of the nonprofit organization “Ideas Beyond Borders”. Melissa is also the New York Editor of Spectator USA the American edition of the oldest English language magazine in publication. She is a human rights activist and a classical liberal who regularly talks on various podcasts, TV news, and at conferences. Her speech can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7f_QqQsCPMI
Our second speaker at the China Session was Jemimah Steinfeld, a journalist who has worked and lived in China. She has worked for the Global Times in Beijing. She also wrote freelance articles for CNN, Time Out and the Huffington Post on issues relating to China. She currently works at London’s Asia House in charge of their literature programme and is the Contributing Editor (China) for Index on Censorship magazine. Her presentation can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfvfgIN97oM
Our third speaker at the China Session was Megha Rajagopalan, an award-winning international correspondent for BuzzFeed News. She has been a staff correspondent for BuzzFeed News based in China and Thailand as well as in Israel and the Palestinian territories, and before that, she was a political correspondent for Reuters in China. Rajagopalan was the first journalist to find and visit an internment camp for Uighur Muslims in China’s far west. She is a recognized expert on the subject of mass surveillance in authoritarian contexts. Megha’s presentation is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dro2vNMbqxo
Our last speaker at the China Session was Evan Fowler, an independent writer and researcher focusing on Hong Kong and China. He is co-founder and director of Hong Kong Free Press and a director of Stand News. He was also the China representative for the Kennedy Center for Human Rights. Evan’s presentation is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJOaSFP7kSY
Closing the Event
This half day event was finally closed by the closing remarks of Merve Aslangoren, the Co-Chair of Human Rights Solidarity. Merve is a law student at Coventry University. Her closing remarks can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRH3UlDK2A8
Refugee Solidarity Week is a week of celebration started by Human Rights Solidarity in 2020. It celebrated in the week containing the World Refugee Day (June 20) and it is aimed at celebrating, empowering and inspiring refugees with programs throughout the week. Since the week was launched under the pandemic conditions, a week-long live programme was conducted in which we published a live episode every day for Refugee Solidarity Week. Each episode contained creative arts and music performances done by refugees, interviews with well-established refugees to inspire new-coming refugees to the UK and interviews with charity founders and activists appealing to the refugees.
Some of our guests were:
Becky Dell; Musical director of Citizens of the World Choir
Lord Roger Roberts; Former president of the Welsh Liberals and Mark Lavender
Gulwali Passarlay; Bestselling author of “The Lightless Sky”
Here are a volunteer’s words for their experiences at the Refugee Solidarity Week:
“Refugee Solidarity Week was a great experience – one I feel especially privileged to have been given a role in. I’ve been involved in many activities with HRS, seeking awareness for issues across the globe, but Refugee Solidarity Week has a different feel to it. A week full of interviews, musical performances, stories, arts, crafts and many more. Despite the busyness, intensity and fatigue, seeing the outcome and the positive impact it has on people makes it all worth the effort. Thanks to everyone who made this possible!”
The programs can be watched at our YouTube channel here: